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Man burns himself alive on the courthouse steps protesting how American Courts have strayed from ensuring liberty to enforcing oppression

June 18, 2011

I’ve said before that the word “literally” is overused and misused in our culture. I’m guilty of it, and so are many others. It’s not a big deal, except for the fact that when you really need the word, its meaning has been diminished.

But guys, today we have a story about a man who literally and successfully set himself on fire on the courthouse steps and died. To quote a tipster: “If burning yourself alive to protest the court system isn’t sensational enough to merit a mention on ATL, I don’t know what is.”

No doubt.

But why self-immolation? Well, let’s take a look at the man’s 10,000 word suicide note….

 

Thomas James Ball of New Hampshire had been through a divorce and a battle with his ex-wife over child support. He believed he was facing jail time. His suicide was in protest of the family court system he felt had done him wrong. The New Hampshire Union Leader reports:

Ball ended his life in front of the courthouse where two thick files trace the disintegration of his marriage. The files include reports of slaps on the face of a preschooler. An arrest. A subsequent divorce. Visitation disputes. Orders to pay child support. A pending contempt charge….

In his letter, Ball said he was facing jail time.

“I am due in court the end of the month. The ex-wife lawyer wants me jailed for back child support. The amount ranges from $2,200 to $3,000 depending on who you ask. Not big money after being separated over ten years and unemployed for the last two. But I do owe it. If I show up for court without the money and the lawyer say jail, then the judge will have the bailiff take me into custody. There really are no surprises on how the system works once you know how it actually works. And it does not work anything like they taught you in high school history or civics class,” he wrote.

Ball was set to appear in court on June 24 for not following a judge’s order that he pay half of his children’s medical expenses — $2,062 — that his ex-wife, Karen Ball of Jaffrey, had paid.

Little of the rambling letter makes much sense. But Ball recounts a 2001 incident in which he was accused of hitting one of his children and which seemed to precipitate the divorce.

“My story starts with the infamous slapping incident of April 2001,” he wrote. While putting his 4-year-old daughter to bed, she began to lick his hand, he warned her three times to stop then slapped her.

Ball cut her lip, and his wife asked him to leave the house, he wrote…

Karen Ball filed for divorce three days after the slapping took place.

Okay, you’d think that a guy who shirks his child support, slaps around his kid, and then lights himself on fire wouldn’t engender much sympathy. But check out this commenter on the Union Leader website:

Regardless of whether he was a stellar parent or a really bad parent, plain fact is the Domestic Relations legal arena of the court system had taken its toll on this individual. The consistency lies in the court systems’ ability to absolutely destroy a persons’ life and its advocacy for doing so. The manner in which people handle to stresses that follows after a trip to court obviously vary with this extreme being played out at the front door of Cheshire Superior Court. Some will likely read his last writings and say he was a nut. Perhaps Tom Ball was a nut, but it also might logically follow that his contact with the system contributed to his downward spiral.

this story serves to remind us of the irony in the marital court adjudication system. DV laws were somehow supposed to protect an abused spouse, but now frequently serve as a legal bludgeon from one spouse on another. When that occurs, we the public will unfortunately witness from time to time, the limits of ones’ stress.

And for what it’s worth, I don’t think I’m the only one who would rather face a “legal bludgeon” than be bludgeoned by a deadbeat father my mom needs to sue every time I have a medical problem.

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2 Comments
  1. Daniel Campbell permalink

    I am surprised at your report on this tragic incident. I knew that most news was corrupted and far from unbaised, however this is the first time I have run into it first hand. You have taken what this man wrote in his suicide note and twisted it into something far less than what it was.

    I have read the suicide note in its entirety. His last words were a call to arms and not a call to sympathy. If you had read the entire note you would have seen that not only was he calling for a change. He was demanding that we take a stand and stop watching as the federal and state government’s violate our constitutional rights.

    You are a disgrace to the Investigative Reporting profession.

  2. Ricky Phillip permalink

    I understand his gripe with the Court system, it suppose to be fair but it’s not, I too pay child support and is behind due to losing my job i started back paying, paid down the back child support considerably only to have them levy the funds in my account that had my rent, IRS payments etc and was told by them basically that they don’t care about that as long as they get what’s owed, the only time i ever missed a payment is when i was out of work…the system FAILED!!!

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