‘South Park’s Chewbacca Defense Has Been Cited in Actual Court Cases

Randomly bringing up Wookies is a solid legal strategy
‘South Park’s Chewbacca Defense Has Been Cited in Actual Court Cases

Since a recent highly-publicized, ill-conceived celebrity lawsuit earnestly made mention of the tragic destruction of Princess Leia’s “peaceful” home planet of Alderaan in court documents, it’s perhaps worth pointing out that the first attempt to weaponize Star Wars lore as a confounding legal strategy was made by Johnnie Cochran — or, rather, the fake two-dimensional Johnnie Cochran who represented the record executives behind Alanis Morissette’s hit song “Stinky Britches.” 

Yes, the “Chef Aid” episode of South Park first introduced the world to the “Chewbacca Defense,” which consists of showing the jury a large image of Han Solo’s buddy Chewbacca then ranting about how it “does not make sense” that this 8-foot tall native of the planet Kashyyyk would suddenly live on the forest moon of Endor with a bunch of 2-foot tall Ewoks. 

In the quarter century since the episode aired, the Chewbacca Defense has taken on a life of its own. Seemingly intended as a parody of Cochran’s closing arguments in the O.J. Simpson trial — in which he famously told the jury that if the glove “doesn’t fit” than “you must acquit” — the Chewbacca Defense has become an actual term used by actual non-animated lawyers. One criminal defense attorney describes the Chewbacca Defense as a “controversial strategy” that is “essentially a form of distraction used by defense lawyers to confuse and mislead the jury.” 

And the Chewbacca Defense has made its way into real courtrooms, too; in a 2009 Swedish trial, in which four men connected to the Pirate Bay torrenting site were charged with promoting copyright infringement, the quartet’s lawyer opted for a “King Kong Defense,” seemingly inspired by South Park, suggesting that the defendants couldn’t have known users such as “King Kong” because they “may very well be found in the jungles of Cambodia.” Thankfully, he stopped himself from adding: “That does not make sense.”

Most notably, in a 2022 case involving a Florida tax preparer indicted on “federal tax fraud charges,” the prosecutor straight-up accused the defense of bringing up details that had “nothing to do with this case.” He went on to say: “I don’t want to seem flip, but some of you may have seen it. I think it’s a South Park episode. And there’s a character on there who is — plays kind of a shyster attorney… and he puts up a picture of a Wookie from Star Wars. And he said: That’s a Wookie. What does that have to do with this case? Nothing. That doesn’t make any sense. This case doesn’t make any sense.” 

The defense then objected, and the jury was instructed to “disregard those last couple of statements about the South Park episode.” Which is just an amazing sentence to have on an official court transcript. 

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 


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