Monday, October 29, 2007

Lend me your ears

In an assault case involving a severed ear, the Court of Special Appeals has reversed the conviction of a defendant who was prohibited from presenting testimony regarding his peaceful character.

Last week the court reversed the conviction of Rhashid Nutter, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for biting off his ex-boyfriend’s ear.

This case evokes parallels to other episodes involving ear assaults:

There is the infamous Mike Tyson assault during his heavyweight fight against Evander Holyfield. The ear bite seen around the world can still be seen in all its wince-evoking glory in this YouTube clip.

There is also oft-told story of the tragic life of famed painter Vincent Van Gogh. In one account, Van Gogh argued with his friend, and fellow painter Paul Gauguin and threatened him with a razor. In a fit of remorse, Van Gogh later cut off a piece of his own ear — the evidence of which can be seen in the famous “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.”

Not romantic, but tragic in its own right, is one of the odder European wars of the 18th Century — The War of Jenkins’ Ear. England and Spain went to war after British sea captain Robert Jenkins claimed the Spanish coast guard had cut his ear off after boarding his ship in violation of the Treaty of Seville. Eight years after the incident, in 1738, the pickled ear in question was brought to Parliament and reportedly gave legislators the smoking gun they needed to proceed with a war.

The War of Jenkins’ Ear lasted until 1742 and produced no clear winner. Fighting continued, however, as the hostilities expanded and became the War of Austrian Succession.

Any other famous incidents involving ear assaults I’ve missed?

—BEN MOOK, Assistant Business Editor

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