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The Odd Truth, Oct. 25, 2003

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The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com's Brian Bernbaum. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.

What's In A Name?

NEW YORK - It's all in the name. General Motors Corp. has scrapped plans to replace the Buick Regal with the Buick LaCrosse in Canada because in the French-speaking province of Quebec "lacrosse" means to masturbate. Among other things.

GM Canada spokesman Stew Low told the La Crosse Tribune in Wisconsin last Friday that in Quebec youth culture the word is a new slang term
"(It) means a couple of things, either to masturbate or 'I just got screwed,' or 'I just got taken'" Low told the newspaper in Saturday's copyright editions. "People of our age wouldn't even think twice about (the word.)"

He told the paper he first learned of the new slang usage about six weeks ago. In organized focus groups in Quebec, young participants giggled when they heard the named of the new car, Low said.

La Crosse Mayor John Medinger said Friday was not aware of the slang in Canada until the Tribune told him.

"These slang phrases come and go, and hopefully this one won't stick around too long," Medinger was quoted in the paper.

GM has not said when the Buick LaCrosse will debut. The company said plans to replace the Buick Regal with the Buick LaCrosse in the U.S. will continue, but will give the new car a different name in Canada.

Bank Robber Catches Herself

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - It didn't take much detective work to catch an alleged bank robber in Northern California. Santa Cruz police say Susie Marie Leigh walked into a bank, gave the teller a note demanding cash - and then didn't even try a getaway. After getting the money, police say Leigh told the teller it was OK to call the cops. Officers say she waited outside in her pickup until police arrived. Sergeant Mike Pruger says they usually don't "catch them this easily." He calls the puzzling bank stick-up "one of those for the memoirs."

Bikini Barbers Stir Complaints

SANDY, Utah - Taking a little off the top - is taking on a whole new meaning. The hair-stylists at Bikini Cuts aren't wearing much on top or the bottom. The new hair salon in Sandy, Utah, is raising eyebrows and generating some complaints. Bikini Cuts is in a strip mall near a supermarket and craft store. Some area residents say the stylists have taken off too much. But the owner of Bikini Cuts says the skimpy uniforms are just part of the fun. The owner adds the real goal is to offer a good haircut.

'Shock And Awe' Is Back With A Vengeance

WASHINGTON - A catchphrase from the war against Iraq has come back to haunt the U.S. Patent Office.

One of the most overused cliches from the war to topple Saddam Hussein is the phrase "shock and awe."

The Pentagon used it to describe the intensity of the attack. Now, enterprise has hijacked the phrase.

The U.S. Patent Office has received at least 29 applications to trademark "shock and awe" for various products.

The proposed items include condoms, coffee, video games and Bloody Mary mix.

There are also applications for "shock and awe" golf clubs, fireworks, salsa and energy drinks.

A pesticide with that name would certainly shock and awe the bothersome insects.

Perhaps the most outrageous of the proposals is for "shock and awe" infant action crib toys.

A Passion For Pickles

NEW ORLEANS - Passionate about pickles?

The Pickle Packers International annual Pickle Fair Trade Show was the place to be this week.

The association's two-day show at the Sheraton Hotel featured 250 delegates and 55 booths, and a peck full of information about the condiment eaten by two-thirds of the population.

Americans eat about 1.25 million tons of pickles a year, according to PPI.

Highlights at the show included a presentation by the Pickling Cucumber Improvement Committee - improvements are, it seems, still possible in a process used since "the dawn of civilization" in Mesopotamia - and one on bioterrorism.

Hole In One!

WICHITA FALLS, Texas - Those golf balls came in handy when a man was being chased by police on a Texas golf course.

Eric Goin surrendered outside the Wichita Falls Country Club after he was struck by a golf ball.

Two 17-year-olds were on the driving range when they saw Goin sprint across the grass. They said they teed off and pegged him in the knee.

Police say Goin ran to the golf course after he walked into a furniture store through the back door and workers called police.

Motorcycle patrols followed Goin across the driving range and up a fairway, but the course was not damaged.

Police say Goin will be charged with being drunk in public.

City Votes To Diaper Horses

LUCEDALE, Miss. - The city of Lucedale will require horses to wear diapers when in town.

The new ordinance was approved earlier this month, unbeknowst to horse lovers, some of whom may boycott the city's annual Christmas parade. Last year, the parade drew 250 riders. The law will take effect Nov. 7.

It was the number of riders that was part of the problem, said Lucedale Alderwoman Gladys Hobdy.

"With that many horses, there wasn't no place, you know?" Hobdy said. "There were some pretty horses. They left us with a pretty mess."

The ordinance requires all livestock - horses, cattle, sheep, mules and others - to be diapered.

At Lucedale Livestock, employee Shannon George wasn't sure what sort of device would do the job. But she knew she couldn't fit a diaper on a horse.

"I wouldn't even try," George said. "Maybe a little monkey, but not no horse or something like that."

Rotary Club President Jim Young said the organization, which backed the ordinance, will meet with horse owners and may present aldermen with a compromise.

Billy Rogers, a member of the George County Team Penning Association and parade regular, said he's not even sure if a saddle horse can be "bagged."

"To be honest with you, if I tried to put a bag on her I'd probably get my brains kicked out," he said. "We want to make sure we can ride our horses. And we don't want to bag 'em."

Virgin Mary In New Jersey?

PASSAIC, N.J.- Part of the mystery involving a tree stump that some say contains an image of the Virgin Mary has been solved.

Seventeen-year-old Ronald Rosario said yesterday that he and a co-worker had cut down the tree. They were among several teens hired by the Downtown Merchants Corporation to clear dead trees and brush in the area.

Some people had fallen to their knees and prayed upon arrival at the site, say the clearing was an act of God.

"It looks like Mary," Camilo Diaz, 41, told the Herald News of West Paterson for Tuesday's editions. "There's no way it was carved to look like that, no explanation other than it was a miracle."

The image was first noticed Saturday night by Nilma Ruiz as she drove by the site with her daughter. Ruiz initially thought someone had left a ceramic statue at the site, but she saw the image after they stopped to take a closer look.

Meanwhile, some visitors claim a similar image of Mary in a flowing gown can be seen on a nearby bridge after the sun goes down.

Other visitors - including Mayor Sammy Rivera - say they see nothing but a stump.

Richard Sokerka, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson, says church officials are aware of the image. But they have not reached a conclusion regarding the matter.

Dog Survives Arrow Through Head

CRYSTAL CITY, Mo. - This wasn't a wild or crazy kind of dog - just lucky.

Luther, a black Labrador, was found on a Jefferson County road with an arrow sticking through his head. He was expected to recover.

Authorities believe a hunter may have intentionally shot the dog with a bow-and-arrow, the tip going in below the right ear and poking out on the left side of the head.

Since the arrow narrowly missed the brain and spine, folks around here have taken to calling the dog "Lucky Luther."

The dog was carried into the Jones Animal Health Clinic in Crystal City the evening of Oct. 9. The county sheriff's department is investigating.

"This was clearly intentional. It would be a pretty far stretch to mistake a black Lab for a deer," said Dr. Thomas Butch Jones, the veterinarian who treated Luther.

The resident who found Luther decided to keep him, Jones said.

Judging by how the arrow was situated, Jones said a hunter may have shot Luther at close range, worried the dog would scare away deer.

He said he treats several pets each year that have been maimed by hunters, often on purpose.

"A lot of hunters take the hunt as seriously as a religion, and anything that gets in their way is going to get blasted to kingdom come," Jones said.

When Toddlers Attack!

ZAGREB, Croatia - Fourteen small children attacked a 1-year-old boy at a nursery in the Croatian port city of Rijeka, biting the toddler at least 30 times, a doctor said Thursday.

The child sustained more than 30 deep bite marks all over his body, including his face, in Monday's incident. It happened after a nanny briefly stepped outside the playroom to change another child's diaper.

"Biting between young children is not uncommon, but I have never seen anything like this," said Dr. Sime Vuckov, the head of pediatrics at the Rijeka municipal hospital, who treated the victim.

A police investigation was under way, but what prompted the children to turn on Frane Simic remained unclear.

Psychologist Bruna Profaca, who has 17 years of experience with toddlers, agreed that it was common for children to get irritable and violent, but not on such a wide and organized scale.

"Still, it could have easily have been a fight over a toy or something," Profaca said. "Children do not have the tools to resolve conflicts and they tend to respond aggressively. The main thing is not to leave them unattended."

The scars were expected to heal, Vuckov said.

The boy's father said he was considering suing the nanny in charge.

Drunken Press Secretary Urinates On Presidential Jet

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government press undersecretary has apologized for urinating while drunk on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's chartered jet last month, newspapers reported Wednesday.

The Philippine Star daily said Heraclio "Rocky" Nazarano relieved himself near the plane's emergency exit, which he apparently mistook for a restroom.

Arroyo was on the other side of the plane en route to Manila from a visit to Paris.

"I deeply apologize about all the shattered expectations," The Star and Business World daily quoted Nazareno as saying in a cell phone text message to fellow reporters. "How I wish I could deny it. But it was one moment of weakness I'm really sorry about.

"The problem is the situation went beyond everybody's control," said Nazareno, a former reporter.

Press Secretary Milton Alingod told reporters that Nazareno submitted a request for transfer, but insisted it was done before the plane incident and was pending Arroyo's approval.

Heart Attack Kills Gambler After Losing Long Shot

HONG KONG - A gambler suffered a fatal heart attack at a race track after betting on a long shot that lost by half a length, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Police spokesman T.K. Ng confirmed 51-year-old Sri Lankan Robert Atapattu died, but had no information on the cause.

Ming Pao Daily News reported Thursday that Atapattu had backed Millennium Legend with odds of 57-1 at Hong Kong's Happy Valley track.

Atapattu was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead, according to the report, which didn't specify how much he had bet.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club did not immediately respond to a reporter's queries.

Baby Snakes Die In Man's Pants

SYDNEY, Australia - A Swedish tourist who tried to smuggle eight baby snakes into Australia in his trousers to fund a vacation will spend the rest of his visit here behind bars, a court ordered Wednesday.

Per Johan Adolfsson, 28, was sentenced in Sydney's Central Local Court to two months' jail for importing an endangered species and making a false and misleading statement.

Adolfsson was searched by customs officers at Sydney Airport on Sept. 22, after arriving from Bangkok on a Thai Airways flight.

They found four venomous baby king cobras and four baby emerald tree boas strapped to his legs in homemade pouches. The cobras had died during the nine-hour flight, but the boas survived.

Adolfsson's lawyer, Michael Priddis, said his client had bought the snakes for $1,000 from a professional breeder. It was not clear whether the snakes were bought in Thailand or Sweden.

"It was a very haphazard, small-scale, and amateurish operation," said Priddis. "He is not part of a smuggling ring."

Priddis said Adolfsson, a glass worker and window fitter, had been suffering depression and alcohol abuse following an injury at work in Sweden.

He had planned to sell the snakes in Australia for $3,500 to
fund an eight-day holiday and lift his spirits.

"It is a bizarre way to have a holiday," Priddis told the court.

As Adolfsson had already spent one month in custody, he will remain in prison until Nov. 21 and then be sent home.

New Record For Continuous Barbering

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. - Peter Vita was 12 when he administered his first haircut. The customer - his grandfather - wasn't pleased.

"That was the worst haircut ever," admits Vita, now 93 years old.

But he kept cutting hair, he's still at it and he has been informed that he will be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for his 81-year record of continuous barbering, The Journal News reported Wednesday.

The Guinness people sent him a certificate, now mounted next to the mirror in the room of his home that he uses as a barber shop. It has a barber pole, his 1930 porcelain barber chair, fourscore years' worth of mementoes and a mostly elderly clientele.

Vita remembers using olive oil to give shine to a man's hair and a straight razor to administer a shave. His hands are still steady, but he gave up the razor five years ago.

"I figured I'd quit while I was ahead," he said.

Sad End For Mad Monkey

PRINCE GEORGE, British Columbia - A 30-year-old mystery was solved when the mummified remains of a once-unruly monkey that vanished from a store were found in an old downtown store.

Bryon Hill, working on a renovation crew in this central British Columbia town, said he was "totally shocked" to find the mummified squirrel monkey above the ceiling last week.

The monkey, about 2 feet from head to the end of the tail, died with its hands around a pipe and was so rigid that Hill could hold it straight up by balancing the end of the tail in his hand.

"I poked it to see if was alive and phoned the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to see if there could be any health risks from working with it," said Hill. "It was hanging on tight, and we had to pry it off."

The monkey "is pretty much mummified," said Jared Hansen, an SPCA animal care attendant. "All that's left is the skeleton and dried tannish brown and white hair. All the major features like eyes have disappeared."

The monkey got increasingly ill-tempered because of taunting by children and vanished from the store's pet department. Employees at the time believed it had escaped or been stolen.

Elaine Meisner, co-owner of the building with her husband Ben, said she was told the monkey was taunted by children with pea shooters, "so he spit back."

"I do think it's very sad that it died all alone, probably from starvation," Meisner said.

The $3,000 Kiss

MILFORD, Conn. - Sonya Chrucky puckered up - now she wants her ex-boyfriend to pay-up. The Connecticut woman charges her ex bit her on the lip while they were smooching. Her lawsuit charges that Peter Carli caused "pain and suffering, scarring and losses." Chrucky claims Carli's lip bite was "willful, wanton and malicious." To add insult to injury, Chrucky says Carli never paid her medical bills as he promised. She says they had a written agreement for her ex to pay $3,000 to cover costs related to the lip-lock injury.

Cat Burglar Is Actually A Cat Burglar

HUMMELS WHARF, Penn. - Talk about a cat burglar! Police in Synder County, Pennsylvania, are looking for someone who's stealing cats. Police aren't pussy-footing around. They say the cat-snatcher took seven felines from a shelter in Monroe Township. The cat burglar apparently struck early Saturday morning. Authorities hope someone will call with information so they can scratch-up some evidence about the thief.

Naked Kids? Must Be Child Abuse!

SALINA, Kansas - A Kansas judge says some Wal-Mart workers did the right thing.

The judge is dismissing a lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart by a woman who was questioned by police - after she had photos of her partially nude three-year-old daughter developed at the store.

Tamie Dragone had sought more than $260,000 from the retailer. She was never charged with a crime, but her lawsuit claims she was humiliated.

The judge says Wal-Mart workers acted correctly in turning the photos over to police, who said they had a duty to look into whether the pictures were evidence of child abuse.

The photos showed the girl playing topless with her father in the family's swimming pool and lying on a rug with her bare bottom showing.

Dragone's lawyer says his client and her husband feel they made their point by filing the suit.

Terrible Waste Of Money

FAIRFIELD, Ala. - It was a huge armored car heist in Alabama - $1.7 million. But for years, no one knew where most of the money went.

Until this past weekend.

Officials say they've recovered what was left of the 1995 robbery in a swamp. They found rotted, threadlike pieces of bills and money wrappers, two canvas duffel bags, and some trash bags.

One officer says it was just a mass of "green goo."

Two Wells Fargo employees were sent to prison for stealing from their own armored truck and making it look like a robbery. A year later, $200,000 was recovered from homes in Alabama. But $1.5 million remained missing.

Authorities said information from a tip turned out to be completely accurate.

British Film Producer Nabbed Smuggling Frogs

PERTH, Australia - An award-winning British film producer and conservationist appeared in an Australian court Tuesday charged with trying to smuggle hundreds of frogs and reptiles out of Australia in his luggage.

Michael Linley was arrested by customs officials at Perth International Airport in Western Australia state Monday, after more than 200 live reptiles and frogs were found in his suitcases, along with insects.

Linley appeared in Perth Magistrates Court charged with trying to smuggle the creatures, which included skinks, frogs and geckos.

Linley, whose credits include work for National Geographic, was released on bail on condition he surrender his passport and report to police three times a week.

Western Australia's Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) said the animals were discovered by X-ray at the airport, following a tip-off from a member of the public.

CALM officers are hoping to release the animals back into the wild later this week. Investigator Rick Dawson said the hundreds of animals were found in two suitcases. Some of the females were laying eggs, he said.

Amish Ditch Gaudy, Orange Reflective Tape

PITTSBURGH - Members of a conservative Amish sect that believe gaudy decorations violate their beliefs do not have to use orange reflective triangles on their buggies, a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled.

The panel also ordered that a lower court throw out $2,565 in fines that 20 members of the Swartzentruber Amish received for not using the triangles, which the state requires on all slow-moving vehicles.

The plain-dressing Swartzentruber prefer gray reflective tape and a lantern. Gray or white tape is legal in nine states for use on slow vehicles, including Ohio, where the sect lived until a few years ago.

The Amish say the tape is as effective as the triangles, although state transportation officials dispute that.

The court's 2-1 ruling overturned a 2002 decision that the state had a compelling public safety interest in requiring the triangles. The appeals court judges ruled Monday that the state did not produce evidence that would allow them to require triangles on the back of buggies.

Donna Doblick, the private attorney who represented the Amish for free along with the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the state didn't prove whether buggy visibility contributed to crashes with vehicles. The prosecutor and state transportation officials did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.

Chimp Commandeers Traffic

STAMFORD, Conn. - Travis, a 170-pound chimpanzee, can do lots of things humans can: He waters flowers, enjoys a glass of wine, brushes his teeth and even watches baseball on TV.

But one thing Travis apparently has not mastered is sensing the best time for play.

He bolted from a sport utility vehicle driven by his owners Sunday night, commandeered an intersection in the heart of this busy Fairfield County city and held police at bay for a few hours.

Despite the efforts of officers, who arrived in more than a dozen cruisers, the chimp continued playing in the middle of the street, rolling on his back and occasionally charging officers.

"He just wanted to play, but it wasn't the time or place," Sandy Herold, who owns Travis with her husband, Jerry, said Monday.

The chimp, when not closing doors on squad cars to prevent being trapped inside, made occasional runs toward the crowd on all fours.

"He's very strong," Sgt. Richard Phelan said.

Officer finally got the chimp into its owners' car. They pressed their hands against the doors of the SUV to hold the chimp inside.

Travis, who is 9 years old, was sleeping it off Monday.

"He got up and had breakfast and went back to bed. He's tired," Sandy Herold said.

Resourceful Assassin

KIEV, Ukraine - Police said Monday that they had detained a man caught with a gun and a head of cabbage he intended to use as a silencer.

Police in the Black Sea resort of Yalta stopped the 48-year-old man who exhibited "suspicious behavior" and arrested him after finding a loaded handgun in his bag with a cabbage he said was "to be used as a silencer," said Iryna Halynska of the city's security service.

The man's motives were not immediately known.

"Our officers just shrugged their shoulders, smiling, as they've never seen cabbage used as a silencer before," the spokeswoman said. She claimed the thick vegetable could effectively muffle the sound of a gunshot.

Imperial Fraud Leaves Cons Royally Screwed

TOKYO - A Japanese man has been arrested for fraud after he duped hundreds into believing he had royal blood and staged an extravagant wedding, collecting $115,000 in gift money, officials said Tuesday.

Yasuyuki Kitano, 41, and his two co-conspirators, Harumi Sakamoto, 45, who pretended to be his bride and 42-year-old Shinya Kusunoki, were arrested Monday, a Tokyo Metropolitan police spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

More than 350 guests attended the spectacle that the trio mounted in April at an exclusive Tokyo club with convincing knockoffs of traditional imperial wedding robes.

Celebrities were among those fooled, with some paying as much as $2,700 in gift money to attend the event, Japanese media reported.

About 70 guests also paid $90 to be photographed with the couple. Most never received their pictures, the reports said.

Kitano claimed to be a member of the Arisugawa family, which has died out. It was founded by Prince Yoshihito, son of Emperor Goyozei, in 1625 and lasted for 300 years until the tenth-generation Prince Takehito (1862-1913) failed to produce a male heir, an Imperial Household Agency spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

Kitano has no connection with the Arisugawa family, the official said.

Naughty Girl Scouts

UNION GROVE, Wis. - The girls of Troop 344 are making money, but they're not selling their cookies door-to-door. They can't, because these Girl Scouts are behind bars. The members of Troop 344 are all incarcerated at the Southern Oaks Girls School. While the name may sound innocent enough, the facility is Wisconsin's maximum security lockup for juvenile girls. This year, the troop sold more than $2,300 worth of cookies. The troop is allowed to sell their Girl Scout cookies to inmates in 12 other state facilities. Officials say without the cookie sales, the troop could not survive.

New Monopoly Champ

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey - Pass go - and collect $15,000. Matt McNally is the new Monopoly champ. He won the title over the weekend on a chartered train dubbed the "Reading Railroad." The Irvine, California, man beat nearly 50 other contestants to take the honors - and $15,000. That's real money, not the funny colored Monopoly money. The players climbed aboard in Chicago and started rolling the dice as the train chugged toward Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the finals. McNally also gets to represent the U.S. in the '04 World Monopoly Championship in Hong Kong.

Samurai Sword Or Ninja Sword?

PANAMA CITY, Florida - A man accused of wielding a deadly weapon during a family squabble over a burial plot was acquitted after seven witnesses were unable to agree on whether it was a samurai sword, a ninja sword, a machete, a knife, a long piece of metal or a stick.

Some said the blade was silver, while others testified it was black.

The defendant testified he had no weapon at all and none was introduced as evidence.

A jury took just over an hour Thursday to acquit Thiet V. Pham, 37, of charges that included attempted aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

The incident took place last January outside Pham's mobile home. Two carloads of relatives had gone there to argue with his wife about an uncle's burial plot.

Two witnesses testified Pham swung at a relative with a sword that they grabbed by the blade before the blow landed.

But defense attorney Bob Pell mimicked an overhead sword motion and said: "If a person with a samurai sword took that kind of swing, there'd be body parts everywhere."

Instead, there were only a few minor injuries, including a cut finger and a faint scratch.

Jerry 'Peace Activist' Rubin

SANTA MONICA, California - Jerry Rubin, the peace activist, wants to be known as Jerry Peace Activist Rubin. He's filed court documents to legally change his name. This Rubin, who's not the late "Chicago Seven" defendant, tried to get "peace activist" listed as his occupation when he ran for the city council in Santa Monica, California in 2000. City officials refused and Rubin took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the high court turned away Rubin's appeal. So, he's taking a different route. A California court will hear Rubin's name change request on December 11, Rubin's 60th birthday. He says his new name will be a birthday present to himself.

'Teeth King' Sets New Record

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A Malaysian claimed a world record Saturday by pulling six railway passenger coaches along a track with his teeth.

Organizers of the event in Kuala Lumpur will apply for V. Rathakrishnan's feat to be entered in the Guinness Book of World Records, the national news agency Bernama reported.

Rathakrishnan, 37, pulled the coaches, weighing 573,760 pounds, for a distance of 14 feet.

The book currently lists Belgium's Walter Arfeuille as the record holder for "greatest weight pulled with teeth." He pulled eight railway passenger coaches weighing 493,570 for 10.5 in Belgium in 1996.

Rathakrishnan, who is just 5' 7" and weighs 180 pounds, is known as the "Teeth King" in Malaysia for his exploits in the past few years in moving heavy objects with his teeth.

His training methods include traditional yoga, gym workouts, jogging and long-distance walking, he told the New Straits Times newspaper earlier this week.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Brunei's head of state, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah - visiting for a summit of Muslim leaders - were among the hundreds of people who watched Rathakrishnan's record attempt on Saturday.

Lawyer Calls Client 'Stinking Thief Jail Bird'

WASHINGTON - A defense lawyer who told jurors his client might be a "stinking thief jail bird" did not fall down on the job, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The high court reinstated a conviction in the case of Lionel Gentry, a California man convicted of stabbing his pregnant, drug-addicted girlfriend during an argument.

"To be sure, Gentry's lawyer was no Aristotle," the court wrote in a short, unsigned opinion.

Still, the lawyer's choice of words or strategy did not rise to the level of harming his client, the court said. The lawyer may have had good tactical reasons for presenting the case the way he did, the high court added.

"By candidly acknowledging his client's shortcomings, counsel might have built credibility with the jury and persuaded it to focus on the relevant issue in the case," the court said.

The court reversed a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that had erased Gentry's conviction on grounds that he had been denied his constitutional right to an effective lawyer.

The lawyer, whose name is not part of the court record, gave a short closing statement asking the jury to remember that Gentry said the stabbing was an accident. That fact was really all that mattered, the lawyer said.

"'The question is, did he intend to stab her? He said he did it by accident. If he's lying and you think he's lying then you have to convict him," the lawyer said.

"If you don't think he's lying, bad person, lousy drug addict, stinking thief jail bird, all that to the contrary, he's not guilty. It's as simple as that."