Monthly Archives: October 2013

Night of the living (legally) dead

Talk about your confirmation bias:  Under Ohio law, if three years have passed since the state thought that you had died, showing up to court under your own power, breathing, and having an intelligent conversation with the judge is not enough to prove that you are living.  Maybe they have a zombie problem that we don’t know about.

In 1986, Donald Miller ran away from home.  Eight years later, his wife had an Ohio court declare him dead so that she could collect social security for their children.

In 2005, Miller escaped from his grave (Florida) and went back to Ohio.  He now wants people to treat him as though he were alive.  Amusingly, his wife widow formally objected to his legal resurrection.  (Takes “he’s dead to me” to a whole new level, doesn’t it?)  The judge refused to say that he was alive.

You see, Ohio’s named-with-an-incorrect-apostrophe law, the “Presumed Decedents’ Law,” gives you only three months to be undeclared dead, or, if you prefer, be declared undead.  Ohioans can be in one of several conditions:  living, presumed dead, erroneously presumed to be dead (the presumption of death having been vacated), and dead.  I believe the symbol for “erroneously presumed to be dead” is this:


As Lowering the Bar pointed out, being scientifically alive but legally dead puts Miller in quite a quandary.  As Lowering points out, if Ohio considers him dead “for all purposes under the law of [Ohio],” can it charge him with a crime, especially one that requires a state of mind like premeditation, intent, knowledge, or recklessness?  He might have a great defense: “Hey, judge, for purposes of Ohio law I am dead, and therefore could not have intended to take those chickens for my own use.”  Then again, if he tries to appeal his conviction, the appellate court might consider his appeal is moot because once a criminal defendant is dead, there’s not much an appellate court can do for him.

I think that under Ohio law, we can safely say that science is “dead,” at least as it pertains to determining whether a human organism is living.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized