Dateline: Louisiana—Rapper C-Murder, in jail for the 2002 murder of a teenager, has changed his stage name because he thinks he is misunderstood. “I am not a murderer,” the rapper, whose real name is Corey Miller, said in a statement released last Tuesday. According to his publicist, Giovanni Melchiorre of New York-based Koch Records, the incarcerated musician will now go by the name of C Miller. “People hear the name C-Murder and they don't realize that the name simply means that I have seen many murders in my native Calliope projects neighborhood,” the rapper explained. The state of Louisiana disagrees, however. Miller was convicted of second-degree murder Sept. 30, 2003, in the death of Steve Thomas, 16, a fan of the rapper who was shot inside a nightclub in the New Orleans suburb of Harvey. Miller faces a mandatory life sentence without parole. Earlier this month, a state appeals court upheld Miller's conviction. His defense lawyer, Ron Rakosky, has said he will appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Dateline: Massachusetts—Thomas P. Budnick says that his lawyer's incompetence was to blame for his assault conviction, and he may just have a point. Budnick actually represented himself in the case. Budnick took his claim to the Massachusetts Appeals Court last Wednesday, arguing that the trial judge never should have allowed him to defend himself against charges of trying to poison a friend by lacing a 40-ounce bottle of beer with nitric acid back in 2002. Budnick had claimed that he “accidentally” gave friend Ryan Gauthier a bottle of acid he kept in his garage for cleaning his collection of meteorites. Budnick was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to two years in prison. He was cleared of the more serious charge of attempted poisoning because the liquid spilled on Gauthier's leg and burned him before he could drink it. Hampden County prosecutor Carl Lindley told the appeals court that Budnick had “made an effective litigant” since “the jury acquitted him on the most serious charge.” Budnick's new court appointed lawyer pointed out, however, that his client once filed mining claims on Mars and threatened to sue NASA for trespassing. “This was a guy who had just come out of Bridgewater,” said Linda Harvey, referring to the state mental hospital. The court did not immediately rule on Budnick's appeal. He's scheduled to be released from prison later this summer.
Dateline: Tennessee—A sheriff's department got a solid tip on a burglary, thanks to a gang of robbers who accidentally called police and squealed on themselves. Early in the morning of April 1, Hawkins County 911 dispatchers got a call from a cell phone and overheard two men discussing plans for a burglary they were about to commit at a local mobile-home dealership, reports the Kingsport Times-News. The conversation went on for so long--a reported 40 minutes--that, by the end of it, deputies were already in place waiting to arrest them. One suspect was even overheard saying, “When that cop moves, we'll go in.” Arrested at the mobile-home dealership in Rogersville were Jason Anthony Arnold, 29, and James Keith Benton, 38, both of nearby Church Hill. Sheriff's deputies who observed the entire incident say the pair broke into a trailer and removed a refrigerator, then waited for an unnamed accomplice to pick them up. Deputies moved in and nabbed the duo after a short foot chase. Picked up at the scene was a cell phone, which officers think did the hapless duo in. “We found a cell phone in the creek, which we believe belongs to Mr. Arnold, and it's the kind with the numbers exposed,” said Detective Eve Jackson. “Apparently with this kind of phone, if you hold down the number nine, it automatically dials 911. So, Mr. Arnold's phone was in his front jeans pocket, and somehow the number nine got pressed and Central Dispatch heard everything they said.” Investigators are still trying to learn the identity of the missing accomplice.
Dateline: Texas—A police dispatcher in West Columbia took an emergency call recently. At first, all she heard on the line was heavy breathing. Soon, another voice came on. “Lay down! You know what that means!” the voice commanded angrily several times. Dispatcher Janice Azbell told the Houston Chronicle that she feared she might be listening to a holdup in progress. Eventually, however, Azbell realized that the breathing was not human. She yelled and whistled into the phone until someone picked up the other end and confirmed what Azbell suspected. A dog had accidentally called 911 when he knocked the phone over. “He was fine,” Azbell said. “He just didn't want to go to bed.”