Sunday, February 11, 2007

Chewbacca Defense

My favourite legal defence mechanism has now gained its own wikipedia entry
The Chewbacca Defense has been applied to real world legal strategies in the media and by some legal experts. Commentator Michael Masnick of Techdirt Corporate Intelligence noted in 2003 that Trojan horse defense was becoming a key defense strategy in computer crime cases, particularly highlighting a claim made by a Slashdot story poster[4] regarding the SCO v. IBM case:

...because juries don't understand technical jargon, we're getting closer and closer to situations where lawyers are going to employ the Chewbacca Defense, as created for South Park. Already, Slashdot has suggested that SCO is using a Chewbacca Defense in their case. Basically, you just have a convincing lawyer make up a bunch of technical stuff, make connections that don't have anything to do with one another, point out that it does not make sense, and therefore, the case should get thrown out. The legal strategy of the twenty-first century: trojan horses and Chewbacca. [5]

Criminologist Dr. Thomas O'Connor says that when DNA evidence shows "inclusion", that is, does not exonerate a client by exclusion from the DNA sample provided, "About the only thing you can do is attack the lab for its (lack of) quality assurance and proficiency testing, or use a 'Chewbacca defense' ... and try to razzle-dazzle the jury about how complex and complicated the other side's evidence or probability estimates are."[6] Forensic scientist Erin Kenneally has argued that court challenges to digital evidence frequently use the Chewbacca defense per se, in that they present multiple alternative explanations of forensic evidence obtained from computers and internet providers to raise the reasonable doubt understood by a jury. Kenneally also presents methods than can be used to rebut a Chewbacca defense.[7][8] Kenneally and colleague Anjali Swienton have presented this topic before the Florida State Court System and at the 2005 American Academy of Forensic Sciences annual meeting.[9]
Perhaps less seriously, ZDNet's Munir Kotadia proposed a Chewbacca defense for cases involving Microsoft Windows, writing, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Microsoft Windows. It is the most popular operating system in the world. But Windows is full of security holes, cannot be trusted, and costs lots of money. This does not make sense." [10] The term has also seen use in political commentary; Ellis Weiner wrote in The Huffington Post that Dinesh D'Souza was using the Chewbacca defense in criticism of new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, defining it as when "someone asserts his claim by saying something so patently nonsensical that the listener's brain shuts down completely."[11]

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