The 5 Strangest Ways Petty Criminals Escaped Punishment

#2. A Lawyer Wins His Case by Opening Fire on the Jury

Scott Rothstein/

There was a time in America when it wasn't fancy legal shenanigans that helped a man escape the law, but a pair of six guns on his hips (at least according to the historical documentary Young Guns 2). Well, Temple Lea Houston kind of had both.

Texas State Archives
Both guns. And both hips. Also, the legal shenanigans.

The son of famed politician Sam Houston, Temple Lea was a legendary orator and the youngest practicing lawyer in the state. He roamed the old west decked in high-heeled boots, an all-white outfit, and a long Prince Albert coat. He got away with this because he also happened to be a famed and feared gunfighter who never went anywhere unarmed.

In his most famous (and insane) case, he agreed to defend a farmer who had killed a notorious local outlaw. The case seemed hopeless: The dead man had been found with his gun still in its holster, apparently shot in cold blood. Even worse, the Snidely Whiplashian prosecutor had managed to pack the jury full of the victim's friends. There was no way they would ever vote to acquit. Still, Houston was convinced the killing had been in self-defense. He knew there had been a confrontation between the farmer and the dead guy, and that the latter had been a renowned quick draw expert. If the defendant had waited for him to reach for his gun, he would have been signing his own death sentence. But how to prove that point to the jury?

Paul Whitton/
By calling the slain outlaw to the stand, because zombie cowboys make everything better?

By quick-drawing your own guns and opening fire on them, that's how.

Seriously, that was Temple's plan. He lightning-drew his own twin Colts and started blasting at the judge and jury. When the panic eventually subsided and the judge crawled out from behind his bench, he found himself face-to-face with an innocent-looking Temple Lea Houston. The gun, Temple explained, had been loaded with blanks for a harmless, fun demonstration of quick-draw skills and how easily someone with said skills could kill anyone, anytime, just ... like ... that.

Hemera Technologies/ Images
Jurors who bought this argument would be obligated to immediately kill Houston in self-defense.

Of course, the rigged and shot-at jury failed to see the funny side and found the defendant guilty as balls ... which is when Temple played his real ace in the hole. The whole shooting thing had been a mere part of his gambit: At the start of the trial, the judge had specifically ordered the jury to be sequestered. When the crazed gunman started shooting at them, they immediately ran screaming, coming into contact with members of the public in the panic. This enabled Temple to demand a mistrial, as the rules had been blatantly breached by this coward jury who dared to run when shot at.

The judge had no choice but to agree and order a new trial. This time, Temple was able to secure an impartial jury and easily defend his client. Having successfully completed yet another episode of Temple Lea Houston: Justice Fucker, he rode into the sunset, presumably with the judge's daughter in tow.

#1. Man Convinces Court He Is Legally Santa Claus

Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

There is nothing illegal about getting into a minor car crash, as Ohio resident Warren Hays did back in 2001. However, if when the cops show up to the scene you hand them an ID that says your name is "Santa Claus" and lists your address as "1 Noel Drive, North Pole USA," they're going to slap the cuffs on you. Having the world's most whimsically fake ID doesn't change the fact that you have a fake ID, which is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Meanwhile, back at the party, your friends will wait, sad and dry.

But, where many of us would have just shut up at this point and pleaded guilty to having a fraudulent state-issued ID and also being something of a smartass, Warren "Santa Claus" Hays was determined to mount a defense. After all, is that not what Santa himself would do? If Santa was accused of a minor crime that he did, in fact, commit?

So the case went to court, at which point Hays (who, in fact, did make a hobby of dressing up as Santa and giving toys to children) filed a motion to dismiss the case. And if this sounds like the plot of Miracle on 34th Street, it totally is -- Hays' defense would be the same as that of the imposter Santa in the film.

Comstock /Stockbyte/Getty
What, were they going to argue with a Claus?

Only instead of showing up in the courtroom with a bag full of children's letters addressed to Santa, Hays walked in with a stack of ID cards. See, he hadn't gotten some dude in a basement to make him a phony ID: He applied for a real one, as Santa Claus, from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles ... way back in 1982. At the time, some sleepy bureaucrat rubber stamped it, and when it came up for renewal, they did it again. Over and over, for 20 years, until the day Hays handed the ID to a cop.

So his defense was that the state of Ohio literally recognized him as Santa Claus, which under Ohio law, meant that's now who he was. Hell, the guy even had a checking account under that name. The judge ruled in Santa's favor, pointing out that that the man couldn't be accused of stealing someone else's identity because, "... this court is not called upon to reach an ultimate determination of the issue as to the actual existence of Santa Claus."

Before Jamie is captured by the authorities, he recommends you come and check out his blog Psycholocrazy, where he shows you 6 ways to instantly make yourself a better person.

Related Reading: Want more criminals sticking a thumb in Justice's eye? Click here and read about the man who escaped jail and bragged about it on Facebook. Or click here to read about the dude who filled out a job application and then IMMEDIATELY robbed the same gas station. Round out your outlaw reading with these shameful police chases.

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