The Law Is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons

By Colin Dayan | Go to book overview

6
WHO GETS TO BE WANTON?

The law is stricter on the face of things,
than morality.

—Frederick Pollock, The Law of Torts (1887)


SHOOTING A TIGER

ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN 2007, TATIANA, A 243-POUND SIBERIAN tiger, escaped from her grotto at the San Francisco Zoo. She scaled the twelve-foot-five-inch wall, killed seventeen-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr., and injured his two friends Amritpal (“Paul”) and Kulbir Dhaliwal. When police arrived at the scene, Tatiana was guarding Kulbir as her prey. She was shot and killed as she turned, responding to their shouts. A year later, the four San Francisco officers who appeared at the scene of this misadventure were awarded the Gold Medal of Valor by the chief of police. The man who shot the tiger reminded his audience at the ceremony: “There’s no training with respect to wild animals.”1

In the aftermath of this encounter between the forces of law and the emblems of savagery—with the zoo in lockdown, while the teens negotiated a book deal—the intensity of the language of blame, transgression, guilt, and vengeance was remarkable. Thousands of on-line memorials on MySpace and Facebook lamented either the death of the tiger or the assault on the boys, or blamed the zoo for the inadequate enclosure of the grotto, four feet shorter than the height recommended by the Association of

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