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The 6 Most Insane Legal Technicalities to Ever Screw Someone

You're familiar with the concept of a technicality, I'm sure. It's some tiny little legal tripping hazard, a petty justification for throwing out a case, or ignoring justice altogether. They're the kind of things that come up when, after witnessing the murder of your family, your dog, and your dog's family, you have to sit quietly by while some liberal activist judge sets the criminal free for some trivial procedural issue. "Ha ha ha ha ha," the criminal shrieks, before passionately kissing the judge and skipping arm-in-arm to freedom. Let down by everything you used to trust, you're forced to take justice into your own hands.

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"Justice" being the name of the rusty sickle you now carry with you at all times.

But it turns out that there are all sorts of technicalities, some of them so strange, that they don't inspire vigilantism at all.

#6. British Members of Parliament Can't Resign

Being a sitting member of the British House of Parliament seems like a pretty cushy job. You get to sit in a little wooden indoor stadium all day and yell at people you hate, and you also have your own official sauce.

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Contrast this with the official sauce of the U.S. House of Representatives: Wet Farts.

But being an MP isn't all yelling and brown sauce; sometimes people yell back at you or throw brown sauce in your eyes. And, of course, there's the ever-present threat of that horrible queen coming by and telling you what to do. And even for more mundane issues like illness or a family personal emergency or sexual deviancy, there are other reasons why an MP might want to resign. Except that they're not allowed to.

You see, due to a 300-year-old piece of legislation (because that's just how England works), no sitting MP can resign his or her seat, unless they accept another office of profit under the Crown. Which means that the government, to accommodate the fact that MPs do sometimes need to resign, is forced to give these MPs a new "job," specifically the Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead. This is essentially a completely made-up position that exists solely to satisfy this bizarre technicality, an office with no duties or privileges or even official sauces. That that's the preferred solution instead of changing the law - which is, you know, those MPs actual jobs - should tell you an awful lot about how good they are at those jobs.

#5. Alford Pleas

An Alford Plea is a not-uncommon plea accepted by some criminal courts. It essentially means "I'm totally innocent, but I get that you've got a ton of evidence against me, which isn't going to look so good if this goes to trial." In practice, it's a guilty plea, it is almost always offered as part of a plea bargain, and the judge will carry out sentencing under that basis (i.e. you're still going to jail).

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"Hooray for moral victories."

On its own, this isn't really a technicality - just a slightly odd legal wrinkle that doesn't have much practical effect on anything. But it has led to some pretty strange situations.

The West Memphis Three were three young men who were convicted in 1994 of the murders of three boys and sentenced to death. The three always maintained their innocence, and over the years, new genetic evidence turned up that tended to support their case. As it became clearer and clearer that a new trial would have to be conducted, their defense team began negotiating with the prosecution, which resulted in a very strange outcome. When the new trial was ordered in 2011, all three entered Alford pleas, thereby maintaining their innocence but stating that they believed the prosecution still had enough evidence to convict. The judge then changed their sentences to time served, added on 10-year suspended sentences, and set them free.

So why was this done? Had the case gone to trial again, there was a chance, however slim, a jury could have convicted the men again. The Alford pleas meant that they were guaranteed to go home and, from that aspect, made sense for them to agree to, even if it meant essentially confirming their guilt. But it also meant they were unable to pursue civil action against the state for wrongful imprisonment, which almost certainly was a factor in those negotiations with the prosecutor. It was essentially plea-bargaining in reverse; they agreed to have their sentences reduced to time served, in exchange for not suing the state. For the people involved, this all apparently made sense, but for any outside observers hoping for a definitive resolution (i.e. a straight guilty verdict or the start of a wrongful imprisonment case), the whole case faded away into an odd legal limbo.

Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net
Which just doesn't provoke wide-eyed sickle-violence like technicalities should.

#4. Wheel O' Elocution

Wheel of Fortune is a pretty straightforward game. The wheel is spun, and letters are guessed, and vowels are bought, all while two people who can't not smile and stare at you intently ... smile and stare at you intently.

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Wheel Of Fortune hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White, pictured here sleeping restfully.

And finally, once everyone at home knows what the puzzle is and has been screaming it at their televisions for a couple minutes, the contestant announces they would like to solve the puzzle. And then this happens:

If you don't like clicking on videos, because you think I'm about to goatse you or something, I'll summarize: The contestant pronounced the solution to the puzzle, "Seven Swans A Swimming," with a distinct lack of emphasis on the final "G" making it sound like "Seven Swans A Swimmin'." This was evidently not acceptable to producers, who ruled the answer unacceptable as it was spoken "in the vernacular." You know. The same way preceding a verb with "a-" is also a-fucking in the vernacular.

This isn't the first time the Wheel's pronunciation cops have struck:

Again for the video-averse, that clip showed four (four!) different mistaken answers offered for a very solvable puzzle ("Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa"). At least two (and possibly three) of those being mistakes of pronunciation alone. It's actually pretty gripping watching this cavalcade of dumbfuckery unfold, and may have, now that I consider it, been pretty similar to how Regis' parents even came up with his name in the first place.

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