This week, everybody was blown away that 16-year-old Ethan Couch's lawyer had used the "affluenza defense" to get his client probation, instead of jail time, after Couch killed four people in a car accident. "Affluenza," if you hadn't heard, is when wealthy parents don't teach their kids consequences, and so it apparently can't be their kids' fault if they drunk-drive and kill people. The hashtag #affluenza is trending on Twitter, and it's fair to say that everybody's had the same reaction: WTF?
Because, come on, if the legal system is going to allow "affluenza" as a defense, it might as well include a "poor pox," as the Christian Science Monitor explained.
We can speculate that the bad choices made by kids like Ethan are a cry for help from a kid who craves parental attention and will settle for anything in place of being ignored or placated with material things.
However, that’s not the kind of speculation people often make about kids suffering from the alternative form of “Affluenza” which we might name “poor pox” – affecting poor kids of working parents who must entrust the raising of their kids to daycare and free programs after school with little “plus” time to offer.
But if you think "affluenza" is the most bizarre legal defense ever used, we've got some bad news: Here are five completely ridiculous defenses that have been used in court. (Spoiler: Some of them worked.)
1. Age Is But A Number
In 2008, a Montana high school teacher named Stacey Rambold raped one of his female students. The victim, 14-year-old Cherice Morales, committed suicide in Jan. 2010 while the case against Rambold was still pending. Rambold was charged with three counts of "sexual intercourse without consent."
What did the Montana judge say? That Morales had been "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold. And even more: Morales was "older than her chronological age."
The teacher got a slap on the wrist: 30 days in jail.
2. Like Jackie Chan? Guilty By Association
Last year, in Portland, Oregon, police officer Benjamin J. Davidson spotted what he thought was a vandal at around 1 a.m. Obviously, he decided to Tase him right away.
After the "vandal" resisted said Tasing-ing, Davidson then pushed his face down on the ground, which left fractures and cuts on Halsted's face.
The "vandal," Daniel Halsted, took the officer to court. But Davidson's attorney tried to demonstrate Halsted was violent and would have resisted the police officer by asking Halsted about his collection of Kung Fu movies.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen — if you like watching Jackie Chan's moves, you're probably inclined to be violent, and just asking for excessive police force.
3. Grand Theft Auto Made Me Do It
In 2003, teenager Devin Thompson fatally shot two police officers and a dispatcher after they brought him to the police station on suspicion of theft. And Thompson hadn't had a gun on him — apparently, he grabbed the police officer's gun and then shot them.
The criminal lawsuit that followed led to an ugly civil lawsuit against Grand Theft Auto's manufacturers and the two stores that sold it to the teenager.
Because nothing forces you to kill three people like a video game.
It didn't help that Thompson was once heard saying: "Life is a video game. You've got to die sometime." Ultimately, his defense fell through, and Thompson was sentenced to death.
4. Too fat to kill
Edward Ates claimed in court that he couldn't have murdered his former son-in-law — because of Ates' weight. Aged 62 and weighing 285 pounds, the defendant argued that he wouldn't had the energy to run up the stairs, pull the trigger at his former son-in-law from a distance, and then run away.
Ates' doctor did testify that it was likely Ates would have been out of breath running up the stairs and couldn't have fired a clean shot. But the defense ultimately didn't work, because the prosecution found overwhelming evidence that Ates had done extensive Internet searches in the preceding weeks on how to commit the perfect murder.
5. Not Married? Not Raped
This year, a woman lost a court case in which Julio Morales, the accused rapist, had impersonated her boyfriend by entering her bedroom in the dark. The woman thought Morales to be her boyfriend, and the two had sex. When the woman found out otherwise, Morales was charged with rape.
But it's not rape, according to California courts. Here is the twisted reasoning that the 2nd District Court of Appeals used:
A man enters the dark bedroom of an unmarried woman after seeing her boyfriend leave late at night, and has sexual intercourse with the woman while pretending to be the boyfriend. Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes.