7 Unusual Criminal Defenses that Actually Worked
Every once in a while, a criminal attorney will earn a victory by coming up with an inspired, passionate, and completely crazy strategy that ends up reducing the charges against their client or setting their client free. Here is a look at some novel defenses that had prosecutors wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth as they watched what they thought was sure convictions walk out of the courtroom.
The Twinkie Defense
In 1978, San Francisco Supervisor Dan White assassinated Mayor George Moscone and fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk. White had been known to be a fitness fanatic, but prior to the killings, he became depressed. At trial, his defense team presented testimony from a doctor that his diet consisting of Twinkies and other junk foods was evidence of his depression.
The court found that his depression diminished his capacity, and instead of murder, White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. The public outrage that followed led to the defense becoming known as the “Twinkie defense.”1
You Can’t Do That and Drive at the Same Time
In 2004, Heather Specyalski was tried for manslaughter in the car-crash death of her boyfriend. The prosecution had evidence to suggest that she had been driving at the time of the accident. Her defense team claimed that she was doing… well, something else.
The paramedics found her boyfriend thrown from the car with his pants and underwear around his ankles, but they had not been torn during the accident. The defense claimed that although their client could not remember, they believed at the time of the crash, Specyalski had been performing oral sex on her boyfriend while he was driving. The defense worked and Specyalski was acquitted of all charges.2
If She Does Not Fit, You Must Acquit
Japanese pin-up model Serena Kozakura was tried and convicted for destroying her boyfriend’s property. The boyfriend claimed she had kicked a hole in the wooden door and crawled through to confront him about seeing another woman. On appeal, her lawyers held up a cast made of the hole in the door. Having a 44-inch bust, Kozakura was unable to fit through the opening. The appellate court agreed that she could not have squeezed through the hole in the door, and threw out her conviction.3
“Officer, You’re Never Going to Believe Why I Was Speeding…”
A Scottish motorist avoided a license suspension after explaining to the court the unusual reason for his extreme speed. Facing a ban on driving, Mohammad Anwar informed the court that he was driving 64 mph in a 30 mph zone because he was late getting home to one of his two wives.
Anwar, a Muslim, is allowed up to four wives under his religion, and his two wives live 16 miles apart. He explained that he spends alternate evenings with each of them, and that a restriction on his driving privilege would interfere with his marital duties. The court agreed to let him off with a £200 fine and six points against his license.4
She Took the Red Pill: The Matrix Defense
An Ohio woman’s lawyer claimed that his client fatally shot her landlady in the head because she believed her landlady was part of a massive conspiracy of brainwashing and murder. Tonda Ansley believed that the world was “an illusion generated by our machine overlords,” much like the future world depicted in “The Matrix.”
She claimed that her landlady and three other people were controlling her mind and causing her to lose her ability to tell the difference between reality and her dreams. Ansley was found not guilty by reason of insanity.5
My Evil Twin Did It
In Malaysia, trafficking in illegal drugs is an offense punishable by hanging. R. Sathis Raj was arrested and charged with transporting 166 kilograms of cannabis and 1.7 kilograms of raw opium in 2003… or was he?
Fortunately for R. Sathis Raj, he had an identical twin named Sabarish, and the two men were indistinguishable down to their DNA. Though the judge was certain that one of the twins had done the crime, he announced he would not be responsible for sending a potentially innocent person to his death. In fact, the police could no longer determine which twin they had arrested.6
The “Tom Hanks Is On The Jury?” Defense
Even in Los Angeles, attorneys are not immune to being star struck when meeting a famous celebrity. Such was the case in a domestic assault trial in 2013 in which Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks served on the jury.
During a break in the trial, a lawyer in the City Attorney’s office approached Hanks to thank him for doing his civic duty. The prosecution was forced to admit the interaction, and the defense attorney immediately moved for a mistrial. After some debate, and with the prosecution faced with an embarrassing loss, the defendant accepted the prosecution’s deal for a reduction to disturbing the peace, for which he paid a $150 fine.7
Contact the Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich to Learn More
Though the legal landscape is always changing, there are many valid defenses available if you or someone you care about has been charged with a crime. That is why you need an experienced, aggressive, and creative attorney at your side to guide you through the criminal process. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have been successfully defending clients against criminal charges for more than 40 years. Let us help you, too. Contact us today for a free, no obligation phone consultation.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney experienced in criminal law near you, no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.
2. [Alaine Griffin, “Specyalski Jury Hears Sex Theory Closings,” Hartford Courant, April 29, 2004.]↩