To date, no reported decisions mention the employment of the “Chewbacca Defense” at trial, despite the passage of almost 14 years from the late Johnnie L. Cochran’s demonstration in 1998 of the novel and innovative defense on the 14th episode of the second season of the animated television show, South Park, entitled “Chef Aid.” The revolutionary defense also continues to go largely unnoticed in the annals of law reviews and legal periodicals.
A good description of the many nuances and possibilities of the defense, which is essentially a version of a “red herring fallacy,” is set forth at TVTropes.org. The underutilized defense may be employed as a last ditch effort to emphasize reasonable–and especially, unreasonable–doubt to the jury, or perhaps to ridicule the very fact of the prosecution itself, and undoubtedly possesses many other potential uses.
Strangely, the Chewbacca Defense originated in a civil action, Major Record Company v. Chef, in which the plaintiff sued the defendant for harassment in retaliation for the defendant’s claim to have written the song “Stinky Britches,” by Canadian singer-songwriter, Alanis Morrissette. Despite representing the plaintiff, Mr. Cochran nonetheless effectively demonstrated the reasoning of the defense in his closing arguments to the jury:
Ladies and gentlemen of the supposed jury, I have one final thing I want you to consider: (pulling down a diagram of Chewie) this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk, but Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now, think about that. That does not make sense! (jury looks shocked)
Why would a Wookiee — an eight foot tall Wookiee — want to live on Endor with a bunch of two foot tall Ewoks? That does not make sense!
But more importantly, you have to ask yourself: what does that have to do with this case? (calmly) Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this case! It does not make sense!
Look at me, I’m a lawyer defending a major record company, and I’m talkin’ about Chewbacca. Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense. None of this makes sense.
And so you have to remember, when you’re in that jury room deliberating and conjugating the Emancipation Proclamation… does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense.
If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit! The defense rests.
The Blog sincerely hopes that acceptance of the Chewbacca Defense by the courts and its usage will increase in the next 14 years. The defense is a cogent last resort defense, the absurdist possibilities of which have not been fully explored. Finally, the Blog’s writers note that we failed to post on the first of this month.