Ohio Wants the Death Penalty for Punxsutawney Phil

Philip Bump
The Atlantic Wire

Butler County, Ohio, is angry that the groundhog got his prediction wrong. At some future time, visitors from another planet — or, perhaps, our own ancestors, who somehow come across the drifting remains of our modern life for the first time — will find this news article and be completely perplexed.

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Fox 19 in Cincinnati, Ohio, reports on this significant legal action.

Officials in Butler County, Ohio have indicted a famous groundhog for the rash of cold winter type weather we've been having.

The indictment, filed by Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Gmoser, alleges that on or about February 02, 2013, at Gobbler's Knob, Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that Spring would come early.

There is also a link provided to the entire indictment. It goes further in its seeking "the death penalty" for the "defendant." Phil's statement that winter was ending is apparently an "unclassified felony" in Butler County, called "MISREPRESENTATION OF EARLY SPRING." This crime offends "the peace and dignity of the State Of Ohio," which, having lived there myself, takes some doing, despite the weather.

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Also: Residents of Butler County? You might want to figure out how much this cost you in tax dollars.

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Since we're here, let's go with it. Allow me to rise in defense of Phil, with whom I share the unending bonds of both first name and poor foresight.

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Prosecuting attorney Michael Gmoser accuses Phil of acting "with prior calculation and design." This is categorically untrue. The test presented to my client, Phil, demanded he react to an unknown factor: the presence or absence of his shadow. Until the door of his hutch (or whatever he lives in) was opened, he had no knowledge of how he would respond.

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Further, his response itself wasn't premeditated. The value proposition of Groundhog Day is that the animal, seeing his shadow, will become frightened — an involuntary response. Not only did he not plan his respons, he was not able to control it!

And, finally, Phil made no determination about the future weather whatsoever. Rather, it is human projection onto his behavior that results in the much-lauded prediction. It is true that Phil presents a "proclamation" in groundhog language each February 2 which is then translated to provide his "prediction," but it is a well-known fact that groundhogs not only lack spoken language, there is no record whatsoever that any groundhog has ever mastered written communication. I offer, therefore, that the "proclamation" from Phil is, in fact, actually created by a human.

It is essential Gmoser prove premeditation given the punishment he and Butler County seek: that "the death penalty be implemented" for the rodent. Happily, Phil is innocent. But whoever wrote up that proclamation and framed the poor little creature might want to watch his back.