Selected Court Cases

State of Alabama v. Harvey Updyke

A devoted fan of Alabama Crimson Tide football was charged with poisoning the iconic trees at Auburn University’s Toomer’s Corner in 2011. Updyke was arrested after taking credit in posts on college football message boards. His history included medical disabilities and a history of other unusual behavior, including incidents following his arrest. 


The case inspired an ESPN documentary film and remains a symbol of the intensity of the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry and how it shapes Alabama culture. Prosecutors consulted The Forensic Panel to examine pertinent records, study Updyke’s medical and behavioral history and to offer professional guidance about spectator sports fanaticism and how to discern mental illness and psychosis from customary and expected passions. These findings were to impact on Updyke’s professional responsibility, as he raised a mental health defense. Updyke pleaded guilty prior to trial.