Does Punxsutawney Phil deserve to die?

The Week
Watch your back, Phil.
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Watch your back, Phil.

A prosecutor in Ohio files an actual indictment against the beloved groundhog for failing to predict six more weeks of winter. Really.

Michael Gmoser, prosecuting attorney of Butler County, Ohio, seems to be both cold and bored. Hence the indictment he filed to sentence everyone's favorite weather-predicting rodent to death, according to the Washington Post:

On or about February 02, 2013, at Gobbler's Knob, Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that Spring would come early.

SPECIFICATION: The people further find and specify that due to the aggravating circumstances and misrepresentation to the people that the death penalty be implemented to the defendant, Punxsutawney Phil. [Washington Post]

Does Punxsutawney Phil really deserve to die? Let's take a look at the evidence.

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The prosecution

Exhibit A: It is cold. As Don Hughes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, told the AP, "Winter has been dragging on in the Buckeye State and surrounding areas, with daily high temperatures this week hovering in the mid-30s and no end in sight for about 10 days."

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Spring, typically, is warm. So you can understand why people feel like this:

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The defense

Bill Deely, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, told ABCNews.com "that he's to blame for Phil's incorrect prediction because he misinterpreted what the groundhog told him." Phil could not corroborate Deely's account of what happened, because he is a groundhog.

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Phil's handler, John Griffiths, outlined his steel-clad defense to CNN affiliate WXIX: "If you remember two weeks ago on a Sunday, it was probably 60, 65 degrees. So, I mean, that basically counts as an early spring."

Did Phil mislead the public "purposely, and with prior calculation and design"? Chances are that he did not, because, again, he is a groundhog. CNN notes that "extraditing him from Pennsylvania to Ohio to stand trial is unlikely, since transporting wild animals across state lines can be illegal," making Punxsutawney Phil the Julian Assange of the marmot family.

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Verdict

Gmoser eventually told the Washington Post that "he was just having 'a little fun'" with the indictment and that he hopes "everyone understands it's tongue-in-cheek."

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This jury thus finds Gmoser guilty of wasting everybody's valuable time.

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