Sues to Get Toy; You Be the Judge
You may never have heard of Julian Knight, but that's likely because not only is he down under, but he's also under sentence. Seven of them. Life sentences, that is. Knight (I can't bring myself to put a "Mr." before his name) was an army cadet and in 1987, he clambered up a billboard overlooking Hoddle Street, a very busy street in Melbourne.
That's Melbourne, Australia, in case you haven't been following along. As a disclaimer, I am not licensed to practice law in Australia, but the situation this case raises is one we face in the states where I am licensed to practice law. Plus, I'm going to bet that even if you don't own a license to practice law, you are still going to have an opinion on this one.
As he climbed up the billboard, Knight took with him two rifles and a shotgun. As you've likely guessed, he then fired shots at numerous passing cars (as well as a police helicopter). He killed seven people and wounded 19 - thus the seven life sentences. Since the Hoddle Street massacre (as it became known) was in 1987, you're likely now asking. "why am I just hearing about this now?"
That's because Knight now - some 26 years later - wants to be able to play on the computer while he's in jail. He wants a playstation. He also wants the computer so he can become a better jailhouse lawyer so he can fight his way out of jail legally. He's already been labeled as a vexatious litigant according to news sources, which means he pretty well understands how to file lawsuits from the jailhouse. He's apparently not very good at it, however, since he's still in jail. That's why he needs to conduct legal research on the computer.
And play. After conducting legal research, I'm guessing that one of his arguments is that he needs to relax and rest your mind. I can attest to that need, but I'm just not sure that Australia is all that willing to plug a computer into his jail cell and attach a playstation to it just so Knight can relax after a hard day on the computer.
By spending more time on the computer. Although that argument is lost on me, Knight's request isn't. The jailers turned down his request, so now he's suing to get a playstation in his jail cell.
It raises the question of what constitutes punishment, retribution, rehabilitation and deterrance. Those are genreally considered the four main goals of our criminal justice system. As a society, we've also agreed with each other to avoid cruel and unusual punishment.
Knight claims that there are other prisoners in his jail who have computers and playstations. Just not him, and he claims that disparate treatment is unfair. I suspect that if we were now able to ask those seven people who Knight killed whether it was fair that they were killed, they'd say no. But those answers don't seem to deter Knight from his request, if that thought even crossed his mind before he asked.
Perhaps the jury that considers this question - if it ever got to a jury - should be made up of the 19 people who were wounded by Knight but survived, and see what they'd rule.
My guess is that they'd say no. How would you rule?