Dorothy Gale, the protagonist of Frank L. Baum’s timeless classic The Wizard of Oz, is known as an innocent and kind-hearted young heroine who overcomes countless dangers to save herself and the good people of the Land of Oz. At first glance, this paradigm seems sound. However, upon closer inspection Dorothy’s hands appear less than clean, begging the question: is Dorothy truly valiant, or merely a vigilante?
As Glinda the so-called “Good Witch” notes, “it’s always best to start at the beginning,” and Dorothy’s troubles begin and end with her unruly dog, Toto. The film’s opening scene focuses on a distraught Dorothy beating a hasty retreat with her faithful furry companion, fleeing the scene of their latest misdeed. Dorothy approaches her aunt and uncle, frantically explaining that their neighbor, Ms. Gulch, “hit Toto right over the back with a rake just because she says he gets in her garden and chases her nasty old cat every day… but he doesn’t do it every day, just once or twice a week!…” A little later, when Ms. Gulch herself arrives at the Gale residence to discuss the issue, we discover some additional details that Dorothy happened to leave out. Namely, that Toto not only engaged in his regular habit of sneaking onto the Gulch property, but that he had bitten Ms. Gulch on this occasion. Ms. Gulch then correctly states that “there are laws protecting folks against dogs that bite.” Under the “one bite rule”, a dog bite victim may seek damages against the dog’s owner if that owner knew that the dog would bite, or failed to use reasonable care to prevent the injury. Here, Dorothy openly admits her fault, declaring “I let him go in their garden.”
It is little wonder that Toto is a chronic trespasser, either, considering who his owner is. Dorothy’s intimate knowledge of the facts of the dog bite incident reveal that not only was Toto venturing into the Gulch garden without permission, but Dorothy was as well. Under Kansas statutory law, a person entering land without authorization and in defiance of an order not to enter the premises may be liable for criminal trespass. Here, Ms. Gulch had made clear that Dorothy and Toto’s repeated entry into her garden was unwelcome. Unfortunately, Dorothy did not learn a lesson from this incident, and instead proceeded to later trespass onto a corn farm and then an apple orchard.
Moreover, trespassing appears to be only a gateway crime for Dorothy. In addition to her lack of respect for real estate boundaries, Dorothy similarly doesn’t seem to recognize personal property claims. Shortly after Dorothy arrives in the Land of Oz, dropping a house on the Witch of the East and killing her instantly, Dorothy’s friend of all of one minute, Glinda, removes the dead woman’s beloved ruby red slippers from her still-warm corpse and places them on Dorothy’s feet. To add insult to injury, Glinda snidely remarks to her surviving sister, the Witch of the West, “be gone before someone drops a house on you, too!” Despite the deceased’s bereaved relative pleading for the return of her inheritance, Dorothy ignores the Witch of the West’s demands, continuing to wear the ill-gotten slippers for the duration of the film. Although Dorothy didn’t herself remove the slippers from the Witch of the East, she would still be liable under Kansas statutory law, which provides that theft occurs when a person obtains control over stolen property knowing the property has been stolen by another and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it.
This will, unsurprisingly, not be the last theft that Dorothy perpetrates. Dorothy goes on to steal a scarecrow from its post on a fenced in farm and an apple from an orchard. Worse still, after using her stolen slippers to gain potentially fraudulent entry into the Emerald City, Dorothy enters into a conspiracy to steal another of the Witch of the West’s possessions, this time her coveted broomstick. Under Kansas statutory law, a conspiracy occurs when one person agrees with another person to commit a crime and an overt act in furtherance of such crime occurs. Here, the Tinman, the Lion, and the Scarecrow all agree to the Wizard’s plan to carry out this dark deed, and Dorothy does not object or withdraw, instead going along with the group’s decision.
Once Dorothy and her band of thieves arrive at the Witch of the West’s residence, their burglary begins to unfold. In Kansas, aggravated burglary is defined as entering into any building which is occupied by a person without permission and with the intent to commit a felony or theft. Once inside the Witch of the West’s castle, Dorothy throws water onto her victim, killing her in a matter of seconds. Despite Dorothy’s history of violence, as shown by her threat to bite her neighbor and her battery of the Lion, it is clear that here Dorothy’s intent was to put out the fire, and not to kill the Witch of the West. Thus, Dorothy is unlikely to be held responsible for murder in the traditional sense. However, because Dorothy was engaged in aggravated burglary at the time she accidentally killed the Witch of the West, she would likely still be liable for first degree murder under the felony murder rule, which applies in Kansas when a person is killed during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony such as aggravated burglary.
Despite these and other crimes, rather than being brought up on charges Dorothy and her friends are ultimately lauded as heroes and awarded medals, affirming the aphorism that “villainy wears many masks, and none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.”
Author and the Wickedest Witch, Ma’idah Lashani, is an Associate at Morrison / Lee. When not playing games or bossing around flying monkeys, Ma’idah is doing her legal thing in the areas of game dev and intellectual property.