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The World Of Creative Criminal Defenses


As the debacle that is the Arizona immigration legislation continues its merry trot towards turning America into a despotic wasteland ruled by only the strongest of leather-clad motorcyclists, I began to wonder if there was ever going to be an effective way to stem the inevitable journey downward.  Perhaps by using that thing our forefathers created to ensure this country didn’t end like the same place they ran away from all those years ago.

Fortunately though, it seems like our new president has finally stepped in, or rather is planning, to try and make things right again.  And with good reason, too; according to recent LegalMatch statistics, more people have been making inquiries into finding immigration attorneys.  A trend that was most likely started out of fear that Arizona’s overzealous xenophobia would somehow catch on and infect the rest of the country.

Now originally, I was going to make this post about federal preemption, but who would want to read that page-turner?  Instead, as I was reading the Washington Post story linked above, it got me thinking about how our country’s legal system has created an enumerable number of ways to ensure that the law can always be crow barred to fit in and resolve almost any situation.  Such a characteristic is necessary for any advance civilization to function, however at the same time this type of legal system can often produce interesting loopholes.  Loopholes that generally start out well-meaning, but can sometimes create both injustice and justice.  Nowhere is this paradoxical sentiment better expressed than when looking at criminal defenses.

Here are three of the most interesting criminal defenses I’ve come across:

1. Lorena Bobbitt’s Irresistible Impulse Defense

The defense that made guys everywhere hold their private parts and say a collective “OOOOOWWW!”  Seriously though, for those who aren’t old enough to remember this story, Lorena Bobbitt gained infamy in 1993 when she grabbed a kitchen knife and sliced her then husband John Wayne Bobbitt’s penis off.  She then picked up the severed member, took off in her car, and then tossed it out on the street.  Lorena’s defense was a simple one: after years of physical and emotional abuse from John she finally snapped one night and had an irresistible impulse to cut off John’s penis.  The defense worked and Lorena was found not guilty, thus sending a spine-chilling message to abusive husbands everywhere.

2. Idiot Defense, AKA The Dumb CEO Defense

Made famous again recently by the likes of Enron’s Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, this defense essentially allowed a lot of greedy and rich CEOs get away with making millions at the expense of others.  How you ask?  Well, by essentially claiming that all the money a company made through illegal dealing and/or fraudulent accounting was done by other people within the company without the consent or knowledge of the CEO defendant.  Now to be fair, this defense generally hasn’t worked in the large scandal cases, because there has been enough evidence in those cases to show the defendant actually did have knowledge of what was going on.  However, in theory it could work, the only caveat being that you’d likely need a defendant who really was in the dark and innocent about the goings on in their company.  But we’re talking Bruce Wayne fake public persona level idiocy here.

3. Gay Panic And Trans Panic Defense

Like Lorena’s irresistible impulse defense, the gay panic and trans panic defenses are essentially off-shoots rooted in the basic insanity defense.  Gay panic defenses usually involve defendants who physically assault or murder a victim.  The defendant claims that they committed their act in a state of temporary insanity due to the victim’s homosexuality or from being hit on by the victim.  Trans panic is a variant of gay panic, but instead of the defendant claiming to have been driven temporarily crazy because the victim was gay, they claim it’s because the victim was transgender.  The tragic cases of Matthew Shepard and Gwen Araujo are the unfortunate poster case for these defenses and luckily in both, and many similar, cases the defense generally doesn’t work.  The reason why is that these types of insanity defenses must be specifically allowed by state or federal law in order to be considered.  And fortunately voters and law makers have not allowed any such defenses to be passed into law.  Though like the idiot defense, it hasn’t stopped people from trying nonetheless.

These are all considered more or less extreme defenses in the legal world.  So don’t go thinking America’s legal system is wacky as the press can sometimes make it sound, regardless of how hard it can be to believe otherwise.


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