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To bill a mockingbird, press 2 for life in prison, and big wrecks, big records.

How much is that possum in the courtroom?

Well, if you're Tampa lawyer Manny Machin, acquitted of killing two possums in his back yard, then they're worth exactly $2,943.49. That's what taxpayers will shell out to compensate Machin for his expenses in last October's case.

The costs included $1,250 for a "wildlife captive expert" (later learned to be a former bank robber) who testified the possums presented a very real threat to the safety of Machin's dog, Pepper, and the neighborhood in general.

Machin said the charges were revenge for his testimony in a 1991 courthouse corruption case in which he said then-judge and now State Attorney Harry Lee Coe III was rumored to have fixed cases with a prosecutor.

"Would you pay $3,000 for a road kill?" Machin asked, mocking the expense of prosecuting him.

But it's not over.

Even though both counts, animal cruelty and discharging a firearm within city limits, were dismissed by a judge, Machin has vowed revenge on Coe. Machin said he intends to sue to recover the costs that were denied by the county's attorneys.

"If I sue and I win, I get attorney's fees," Machin said. "And you know what that means: I may sue for $1,500 and run up $5,000 in fees."

And what's with that hair?:

Court TV's coverage of the Tampa murder trial of former Trooper Charles L. Trice, broadcast nationwide, had one unexpected side-effect: viewers from around the country called the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office with questions they thought the prosecution should ask.

One wanted to know why Trice, who was later found guilty of murdering his wife, had been allowed by a judge to use an office in the house despite a domestic violence injunction. Another suggested lawyers hammer home the fact that Trice had trooper training and should have known how to deal with a confrontation.

Which leads, we foresee, to this future courtroom scenario: The judge asks the prosecutor if there are any further questions for the witness on the stand. "One moment, your honor," the prosecutor says. She consults a few index cards. And then she reads, "Mrs. Wilma Winston, a schoolteacher from Chicago, Ill., asks . . ."

They had reasons to run:

Tampa police officials have been shelled with criticism over a succession of patrol car wrecks during high-speed chases.

Well, they just want people to know that officers may be getting into wrecks, but it was with the best of intentions.

Of the 12 chases since Tampa Mayor Dick Greco turned cops loose to pursue at will, nine have ended in arrests. In those nine chases, 12 people were arrested.

Here's the kicker: Those 12 (the youngest 11 and the oldest 33) had 82 prior felony charges among them. The charges, which date back to 1982, include robbery, aggravated battery, burglary and grand theft auto, cocaine possession and possession of a firearm on school property.

The point is clear: These are not nice people. And catching them in a stolen car means they'll do some serious prison time when the judge factors in their previous convictions.

You're not from around here, are you:

In a recent county court hearing before Judge Gregory Holder, a man was entering a plea to the charge of possessing an undersized snapper. Nearby, a brand new defense attorney expressed her shock to a bailiff.

I can't believe it, she said. Why not, he asked.

You mean to tell me, the lawyer said, that you can be charged with having a lawnmower that's too small?

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