Paradoxes of intention
Teen Who Threw Up on Teacher Sentenced
July 27, 2005, 5:35 AM EDT
OLATHE, Kan. -- A high school student convicted of battery for vomiting on his Spanish teacher has been ordered to spend the next four months cleaning up after people who throw up in police cars.
Johnson County Magistrate Judge Michael Farley said during the sentencing Tuesday that he considered the boy's actions "an assault upon the dignity of all teachers."
The teen, now 17, vomited on teacher David Young as he turned in his textbook on the last day of classes at Olathe Northwest High School. His attorney, Brian Costello, said the student vomited because he was nervous about his final exams.
But two other students testified that the teen said he threw up intentionally. One girl said he told her in advance that he planned to throw up on Young on the last day of school. The girl wasn't in class when the teen threw up, but she testified that the boy later told her, "You missed it. I did it."
Young said the student, who was failing his class, made no effort to avoid throwing up on him. "I was just sort of stunned," he said.
No one disputes that the student vomited on his teacher. The issue is whether he intended to do so. Most people can't vomit at will and the student didn't stick his fingers down his throat.
But Morrison will argue that [Matthew] Haefele intentionally assaulted his teacher with vomit, and says he has the proof to bring a conviction.
"If this were an accident, we wouldn't have any interest in filing the case," the prosecutor said. "We intend to prove that he ate an extra big lunch, he made his intentions known to others, and went out of his way on the last day of school to vomit on his teacher."
Legal issues aside, this case presents an interesting philosophical problem. Can you intend to do something you have no reason to believe you can do?