Legal Issues In the News

The Stealing of Christmas


Christmas is this week, so it's time for commentator Amy Gajda's annual legal analysis of a very serious holiday crime: the stealing of Christmas by The Grinch.

Here's this week's edition of Legal Issues in the News, with apologies to Dr. Suess. 

Imagine all Whoville remembered the past.

Imagine all Whoville wanted to cast 

The Who nets way up high in the air

And capture the Grinch -- with all his green hair.


So imagine that townspeople took to the courts.

Whoville v. Grinch, a drama of sorts.

Pretend that they looked to the courts of this state,

Deciding forgiveness just had to wait.


Three charges, three big ones, a three-count indictment.

And the only defense: a sort of contritement.

For all that the Grinch could truly say

Was "I'm sorry. Not again," in his change-of-heart way.


Defense enough?  You have to decide.

Hear all the counts with ears open wide

And then think: if the jury were you,

If they jury were you, what would you do?


Count Number One would certainly be --

You probably guessed it -- Burglary.

For the Grinch, he entered a dwelling intending

To take all things within, including the mending!


Illinois Code Section 19-dash-3

Describes residential burglary.

For the Grinch to be guilty of just such a crime,

He'd have to have entered with theft on his mind.


Did he?  Let's look to the Dr. Seuss book.

In it, Grinch grabbed Santy-hat from a hook

And didn't say much of what he was thinking.

But we'll look to his actions . . . and he'll soon be sinking.


Count Number Two, a simple one: Theft.

For the Grinch came to Whoville and left it bereft

Of all the Who's things: the roast beast, the presents,

Leaving all Who's less who-like, more like singing peasants.


Illinois Code Section 16-dash-1

Tells about theft, doesn't mention by gun.

Instead, there's guilt if, by threat or deception,

He got things of another, like the stuff I just mentioned.


We'll look to the book again for the facts.

The Grinch has a witness to his evil acts.

Cindy Lou Who watched the tree go and grieved.

It's she whom the Grinch meant to deceive.


And recall that sad little dog name of Max?

We've all heard tale of such horrid attacks

On that poor little antlered mutt -- no, hairy sweetie.

Cruelty to Animals -- Count Number Three.


The Humane Care for Animals law

Seems written to get the Grinch right in the craw.

The Grinch wasn't allowed to go where he went;

An animal he can't overwork or torment.


There’s evidence there -- nice drawings, in fact:

Grinch giving Max horns -- a very cruel act.

Then overwork? Max pulled a stuffed sled.

Torment?  Oh, yes. Grinch played games with his head.


But, as for witnesses, dogs cannot talk.

And so, on this count, Grinch might get to walk.

The pictures? They're there, every one, plain as day.

But, you guessed it, it's all called hearsay.


After his deeds, the Grinch changed his small heart.

And put all things back where they'd been at the start.

But that, while a very fine act, thing, or gesture,

Is not a defense.  (More like prison investiture.)


A judge, however, could indeed consider such things

Mitigation in Grinch's own court sentencing

And send Grinch to jail, put him in ties

For far less time than he'd face otherwise.


So would you convict?  Oh, please, please do tell.

In the book, there's no trial:  All's well that ends well.

For me, the case seemed pretty airtight-a.

But I’m against crime.  My name’s Amy Gajda.