The 7 Most Baffling Criminal Defenses (That Sort of Worked)


Let's face it, people will say anything to get out of going to jail. For instance, stats show that less than one percent of insanity pleas actually work, since for every one guy who truly has something broken in his brain, there are at least 99 scumbags who're just making shit up.

Here are seven of the most bizarre criminal defenses ever mounted in court... some of which are made even more bizarre by the fact that they actually got off.

The Matrix Defense

The Crime:

In July of 2002, Tonda Lynn Ansley of Hamilton, Ohio shot her landlady in the head. This is generally fatal.

The Defense:

Ansley told police, "They commit a lot of crimes in The Matrix." Following her lead, Ansley's attorney reasoned that the "our world is just an illusion generated by our machine overlords" argument was bulletproof and used it as the cornerstone of an insanity defense. They claimed that Ansley thought her landlady was part of a scheme to "brainwash and murder" her while in reality everyone was presumably living in pods of red goo.

Did it Work?

All too well. Ansley's defense was able to prove that she believed she was inside a computer simulation, and as such felt she was entitled to waste anyone around her that could possibly prove a threat. A jury of her peers found her not guilty by reason of mental defect.

On the surface this case seems to echo John Hinckley's famous "Taxi Driver Defense," but there are a few subtle differences we would like to point out: Hinckley claimed he tried to kill President Reagan to impress Jodie Foster by emulating the character of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. Tonda Lynn Ansley, on the other hand, shot her landlady in the face because she saw Keanu Reeves jump over buildings and stop bullets with his mind in The Matrix. We feel Ansley went the extra mile.

Note that this defense was so successful that it was used a year later by Vadim Mieseges of San Francisco for, you guessed it, murdering his landlady. Legislation to rename "The Matrix Defense" to the "Kill Your Landlady, Everyone's Doing It, Defense" is still pending.

Homicidal Somnambulism a.k.a. the Sleepwalking Defense

The Crime:

On May 23, 1987, Kenneth Parks drove 14 miles to his in-laws' house and brutally attacked them, fatally stabbing his mother-in-law. He then hopped back in the car and took himself to the police station to surrender, telling them "I think I may have killed some people," which is just the sort of thing you want to be uncertain about when surrounded by cops.

The Defense:

Parks claimed he had no recollection of any of the events of the night in question, and could only remember waking up in police custody. His defense counsel proposed that he had committed the murder while sleepwalking and therefore could not be held responsible for his actions (Parks had evidently been dreaming about his mother-in-law blowing a huge lead on Family Feud).

The sleepwalking defense is normally used to escape blame for things like pissing in the sink, so prosecutors found it a little far fetched, a phrase which here means "That's seriously the best he could come up with?"

Did it Work?

Not to take Parks at his word, doctors and detectives ran an Electroencephalography (EEG) scan to check his story. For those of you unfamiliar with an EEG scan, it consists of attaching multiple electrodes to the head and measuring neuron firing activity in the brain. It also resembles anime tentacle brain rape.

The results of the EEG showed that in fact Parks had abnormal brain activity indicative of extreme parasomnia, a dissociative sleep disorder that can lead to anything from night terrors to night stabbings.

Given these results, Parks's unwavering testimony and no discernible motive for the crime, Parks was acquitted of murder and never invited to spend the night at anyone's house ever again.

Trans(gender) Panic Defense

The Crime:

On October 4, 2002, a transsexual woman named Gwen Araujo was tortured and murdered by three men who had sex with her, while somehow unaware of her biological orientation (either her male genitalia had been disguised by a Romulan cloaking device or her attackers weren't the brightest bulbs in the chandelier--evidence supports the latter).

The Defense:

The defendants claimed they were enraged to insanity when they realized that Araujo had man parts. Whereas most people would've had a couple more drinks and a hot shower, these gentlemen decided the most appropriate reaction would be a brutal murder by way of shovels and pickaxes. Apparently there is no greater trauma than a blowjob from a transsexual (an experience Cracked writers refer to as "Wednesday").

Her name is Stanley.

Did it Work?

Yes and no. The first trial resulted in a hung jury, essentially indicating that a room of 12 people couldn't decide whether killing someone for having weird genitals was wrong.

In the second trial, the defense attorney realized that none of the jurors were drooling into cups or wearing special "indoor helmets" and abandoned the Trans Panic Defense in favor of a more reasoned, less retarded approach. This probably seemed like less of a good idea when the murderers were quickly found guilty.

The Idiot Defense

The Crime:

Richard M. Scrushy, the founder of healthcare service provider HealthSouth, was charged with violations of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, which in essence punishes corporations for routinely dicking over their investors a la Enron. Five of HealthSouth's Chief Financial Officers pled guilty to fraud charges, and in turn pointed the finger at Scrushy as the ringleader of the firm's unethical douchebaggery.

Also: Weird, right?

The Defense:

Scrushy's lawyers claimed he was completely ignorant of any wrongdoing, arguing that as head of a major corporation, his attention was diverted from trivial matters (accounts, shareholders, human resources, white collar crime) so that he could be free to focus on the more important aspects of high-level management (golfing, sleeping on huge piles of money).

So they essentially had Scrushy walk into the courtroom like Ricky Ricardo, throw up his hands and exclaim, "WHAT HAPPENED?" as if he had just come home from the Babalu show to find that Lucy had zanily embezzled millions of dollars from company shareholders.

"Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to- IS THAT EIGHT MILLION FUCKING DOLLARS??"

Did it Work?

Scrushy was found not guilty on the grounds that no one could prove he was aware of the skullduggery going on in his own company, demonstrating once again that race, religion, age and sexual orientation aren't relevant in deciding a person's guilt or innocence so long as they're willing to act like a complete fucking moron in open court.

That wasn't enough to fool a later judge, however, when a lot of the screwed shareholders sued Scrushy and won $2.9 billion, a sum Scrushy said he would be happy to pay because, "I have a lot of extra money, from all that fraud."

Irresistible Impulse, a.k.a. I Just Couldn't Help Myself, Damnit

The Crime:

If you watched even one minute of late night talk show monologues in the 90s, then you know this story well.

On June 23, 1993, John Bobbitt came home after an evening of heavy drinking and decided that assaulting his wife Lorena would be the perfect nightcap (he was later acquitted of the charge, but we're guessing if your wife refers to a sexual encounter as "rape," it was neither welcomed nor appreciated). Once he was passed out in an alcoholic stupor, Lorena went to the kitchen and grabbed a carving knife. She then returned to the bedroom to perform an amateur penectomy on her sleeping husband, presumably after shouting "IT'S COCKSLICING TIME!" like The Thing.

Here is a picture of The Thing, because the alternative is a picture of dick-chopping.

The Defense:

Lorena's lawyer claimed that she removed her husband's penis due to "an irresistible impulse to sexually wound" him after years of domestic abuse. For those of you less familiar with the English language, "irresistible impulse" is basically an academic way of saying "I couldn't control myself" or "that dick was ASKING to get chopped."

Shut up. There's nothing funny about cutting someone's dick off.

Numerous cross-examinations of John Bobbitt did little to suggest he hadn't deserved what happened, though we imagine if his dick had been called to the stand it would have delivered a powerful testimony.

Did it Work?

In a verdict that sent shivers down the spines of drunken shitbags everywhere, Lorena was found not guilty. On one hand it's hard not to sympathize with the battered wife. On the other, it seems like every crazy thing you've done in your life could be written off as "irresistible impulse." We think this will be renamed the "I NEEDED to (punch that douchebag, steal those Cheetos, masturbate on the subway) Defense" in the near future. Possibly on our way home from work.

Black Rage

The Crime:

Colin Ferguson boarded a train in Long Island on December 7, 1993, wholly dissatisfied with the level of service being provided. Unable to locate any comment cards, he chose to vent his frustration by pulling a gun and shooting 25 people, killing six. He was eventually overpowered by three passengers on the train and turned over the police.

The Defense:

Ferguson's lawyers put together a defense based on "black rage," following the rule that the best criminal defenses all share titles with 70s era blaxploitation movies. Ferguson's defense argued that he was driven temporarily insane with black rage as a result of living in a white-dominated society, and as such could not be held criminally liable for his actions.

Did it Work?

We may never know. Ferguson's high priced team of attorneys had prepared their opening remarks, claiming in several interviews that it would be a landmark case for race relations in the United States. Fortunately for race relations, Ferguson fired all his lawyers at the last second and chose to defend himself.


Ferguson, being crazy, came up with the even more landmark defense of alleging a computer chip had been implanted in his brain and requesting President Bill Clinton be called to the witness stand. He was unsurprisingly convicted on six counts of murder and 19 counts of attempted murder, and was sentenced 315 years to life in prison. Dude should have just said he was pissed off.

The Evil Twin a.k.a. the Mirror, Mirror Defense

The Crime:

Mr. Raj (a name which undoubtedly fills its bearer with the insatiable urge to kill James Bond) was a 27-year-old Malaysian entrepreneur of sorts, working as a transport logistics manager moving a fiercely demanded product with a massive profit margin. In other words, he was a drug trafficker.

As all good things must come to an end, he was arrested and charged with transporting 166 kilos of cannabis and 1.7 kilos of raw opium in 2003. And while many parts of the world are coming around to the ideal of legalizing marijuana completely, the penalty for trafficking the stuff in Malaysia is death by hanging.

The Defense:

It appeared to be a slam dunk for the prosecution. Mr. Raj had been caught in the act and the powerful case against him included DNA, widely regarded as the Michael Jordan of physical evidence. The only problem was that there were two Mr. Rajs.

You see, R. Sathis Raj and Sabarish Raj were identical twins, and they decided to Parent Trap that shit. When questioned as to "Who dunnit?" each man pointed the finger at the other, blurring the line between good Raj and evil Raj. Malaysian prosecutors were baffled, presumably because neither Raj had a goatee.

Did it Work?

Here's the bitch about identical twins. Even if you caught one of them in the act, all you have to do is leave them alone in a room together for 30 seconds and you don't know who's who. Ultimately, both men were set free as neither the prosecutor nor the judge and jury could figure out which one was guilty. They couldn't even be certain which twin was arrested at the scene of the crime.

Thus they gave the brothers a new lease on life and one of the best bar stories ever told.

For more depressing wastes of taxpayer money, check out 7 Ridiculous Cases Where Animals Were Put On Trial. Or find out about more shithouse crazy criminals, in The 6 Most Utterly Insane Attempts to Kill a US President.

And stop by's Top Picks to see our Boob Insanity Defense.

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