Five of the Most Unusual Criminal Defenses – That Actually Worked
There have been some crazy cases in the course of history, usually based on the facts of the case or the criminal who committed the crime. But some cases are notorious because of the crazy defenses the lawyers employed successfully. Here are the Top Five most unusual defenses that got the defendant off.
Five: The Matrix Defense – This one has kind of been a repackaged ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ defense, but it is actually so insane that it is noteworthy. In July of 2002, an Ohio woman fatally shot her landlady. The woman told police that “They commit a lot of crimes in the Matrix,” and her attorney argued that the woman thought her landlady was part of a massive conspiracy to brainwash and murder her in a computer simulation. The jury bought the idea that she thought she was entitled to murder anyone who she felt threatened her in this alternate universe, and found her not guilty by reason of mental defect. Wouldn’t it be weird if her attorney was Mr. Andersen?
Four: Being an Idiot – In 2002, the founder of HealthSouth was charged with violating the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (preventing corporations from scamming their shareholders). The founder was blamed by the other directors as the ringleader in the scheme. His (presumably very expensive, very well-paid) lawyers argued that he had no idea there had been any wrongdoing because, as the leader of such a massive corporation, he was too busy running the corporation that he could not be bothered by more trivial matters like basic accounting and trade deals. Scushy was found not guilty because no one could actually figure out that he knew what was going on. This could be very interesting in the probable upcoming fraud case with Wells Fargo.
Three: The Twinkie Defense – Harvey Milk and May George Moscone of San Francisco were murdered by Dan White in 1978, who faced the death penalty. His lawyers argued diminished capacity, given his bouts of depression wherein, just as in the days before the murder – he would eat only Twinkies. They argued that the junk food showed his state of mind, and the jury acquitted him of murder, convicting him only of voluntary manslaughter and sentencing him for 8 years in prison – all because of a cream filled sponge cake.
Two: The Mirror Defense – In Malayasia, a 27-year-old engaged in drug trafficking (which, sadly for him, carries a penalty of death by hanging). He got caught transporting 166 kilos of cannabis with 1.7 kilos of opium. He had been caught in the act and there was DNA involved – an open and shut case presumably, right? Wrong – the drug trafficker had an identical twin, who voluntarily agreed to pretend like he had also done the crime. Both men were set free because no one could figure out which one did it.
One: Affluenza– This one is perhaps the most outrageous – as in it will make you feel outraged. Ethan Couch killed four people by DUI in Texas. His attorneys argued that he suffered from ‘affluenza,’ a non-medically recognized condition. The ‘illness’ was caused by an extremely wealthy and spoiled childhood, where Couch was taught that money bought privilege, and so he could not recognize the consequences of his actions. He received a two year sentence. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it buys a heck of lot of other pretty useful things, I suppose.