The Law: Backfiring Booby Trap

When Marvin Katko, 30, broke into an abandoned farmhouse near Oskaloosa, Iowa, a shotgun cut loose with a load of buckshot, hitting him in the right ankle. The gun had been tied to a bed, and the trigger was wired to go off when the bedroom door was opened. Katko was arrested, for petty larceny, fined $50 and put on six months' probation. Justice had apparently been done, or so everyone thought—except Marvin Katko.

The injured prowler sued the farm owners, Edward Briney and his wife, for $60,000; a jury awarded him half his...

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