When you think of the great court cases in the past century where science meets the law, you’re probably thinking about cases like Roe v. Wade or the Scopes Monkey Trial—not Commonwealth v. Fennie. And that’s deservedly so, because this latest science-in-the-courtroom case sounds more like science meets clown: A judge passed his verdict after he methodically proved that pizza’s state of matter is indeed a solid.
It all started last October, when 20-year-old William James Fennie III apparently chucked a pizza slice at a passing car in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He then went on to resist arrest, forcing two officers to Taser him to the ground.
Now, based on the fact that Pennsylvania law clearly states that it is illegal to throw “any solid object” toward a roadway, you might think President Judge James P. MacElree’s decision was an easy one: After all, it doesn’t take a degree in pizza mechanics to conclude that pizza counts as “any solid object.” But Fennie’s attorney argued that the legal definitions are vague and pizza shouldn’t legally count as a “missile.”
This prompted Judge MacElree to undertake a high-stakes experiment, with the starting question: Is pizza a solid object?