Special Sub-Topic: Morphine and Chocolate
|Arguably the most famous of the "say what?!" excuses for committing a crime, what snack food was linked to the defense used by San Franciscan Dan White in his trial for the murder of Harvey Milk and George Moscone?|
Twinkies. Actually, the "Twinkie Defense" was a phrase coined by the media. Twinkies were never mentioned by Dan White's defense team as the cause of his crime. Rather, the fact that the health-conscious White had suddenly started eating junk food was an indication that he was depressed and was thus acting under diminished capacity, which was the actual defense used. White ended up being convicted of manslaughter rather than murder.
|This snack food defense was used by Wesley Shaffer, who was caught burglarizing a Florida residence. Had Shaffer burglarized a fair, he may have had a case. Which snack did Shaffer allege was responsible for his actions? |
Cotton candy. Wesley Shaffer admitted to the crime (he was caught in the act), but he claimed that he wasn't responsible because he was an undiagnosed diabetic who had suffered a psychotic episode from eating two bags of cotton candy (also known as candy floss). The jury didn't buy it. Shaffer was sentenced to six years in jail.
|The San Ysidro McDonald's massacre in 1984 resulted in 22 deaths, including that of the shooter. His widow sued McDonald's for contributing to his actions. Which frequently disparaged food additive did she claim was partially responsible?|
Monosodium glutamate. In 1986, Etna Huberty sued both McDonald's and her husband's former employer, alleging that they were responsible for his actions. She claimed that the monosodium glutamate used by McDonald's in food, such as their "Chicken McNuggets", and the high level of metals found in his body from his years spent as a welder, triggered his violence. The judge didn't buy it, and the case was dismissed.
|Driving under the influence of chocolate? Susan Vaughan tried that excuse when she was arrested in Geelong, Australia. What filling in the chocolates did she blame?|
Liqueur. Ms. Vaughan claimed that she had just quit smoking and had been using liqueur-filled chocolates to control her cigarette cravings. She said she hadn't been drinking; the chocolates accounted for her high blood alcohol level. The Australian Magistrate Court judge didn't fall for it; she was fined and lost her license.
There seems to be some debate as to whether a person can get drunk from eating liqueur-filled chocolates; some sources state that the ingredients in the chocolate offset the potency of the liqueur, while others maintain that the quantity of liqueur is so small that a large number of chocolates must be eaten to cause intoxication. In any case, the method of intoxication doesn't excuse the behavior, as Vaughan discovered.
|Charles Shapiro pleaded guilty to hiring a hit man to kill his cousin over a real estate deal, but he later tried to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he was impaired when he entered it. Apparently, he couldn't stomach a prison term. What medicine did he claim affected his judgment?|
Antacid. American millionaire Shapiro claimed he was impaired by tranquilizers and an overdose of Tums antacids, having taken an entire bottle of Tums a few days before pleading guilty. The judge declined to allow him to revoke his plea, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
|In 2009, Daniel Noble was arrested for two separate vehicular hit and runs on the Washington State University campus. He was so combative when confronted that police had to taser him. His attorney alleged it was a psychotic episode caused by an overconsumption of which beverages?|
Coffee and energy drinks. Noble was seen driving erratically before hitting pedestrians in two crosswalks a block apart; the victims suffered broken bones and other injuries. His wife stated that he had been stressed and acting strangely due to working long hours and that he had been drinking large quantities of coffee and energy drinks. Not surprisingly, the media were quick to label this the "Starbucks defense". Noble was involuntarily confined to a state mental hospital pending a competency evaluation.
|In 2002, Karli Ann Bobus was arrested in California on suspicion of drunk driving. However, she denied that she had been drinking beverages. On what medication did she blame her erratic driving, slurred speech and blood alcohol level?|
Cough syrup. Bobus claimed she had consumed a capful of cough syrup, which accounted for her condition. The judge disagreed and suspended her license. The case actually went up to the State Supreme Court (which declined to review it) because Bobus maintained that her license shouldn't have been suspended since she hadn't consumed an alcoholic beverage. The lower court had ruled that it didn't require proof that an alcoholic beverage had been consumed; evidence of a blood alcohol level over the legal limit was enough to suspend the license.
Interestingly, there are several states in the U.S. that have addressed the cough syrup issue, with some states such as Florida having a lower blood alcohol threshold for underage drivers.
|Charles Hausberg was arrested in Chicago for the death of a teenager who was killed after Hausberg made an illegal u-turn into oncoming traffic. A subsequent drug test showed morphine in Hausberg's system. What did he allege caused the positive test result?|
Poppy seed muffins. The media labeled it the "Elaine Benes Defense" after a "Seinfeld" episode in which Elaine failed a drug test after eating poppy seeds. This is actually a valid defense however, as poppy seeds do contain the same opiates found in morphine, and although they do not have the same narcotic effects of opiates, they will cause a positive test result. The TV show "Mythbusters" explored the poppy seed effect and found that consuming three poppy seed bagels led to a positive test after two hours. Other sources maintain that only one bagel can have the same effect.
Hausberg claimed to have eaten several poppy seed muffins the night before the accident, and the judge acquitted him of a "driving under the influence" charge since the cause of the test result could not be determined. He was convicted of making an illegal u-turn and fined $500 and sentenced to 500 hours of community service.
|Massachusetts State Senator Anthony Galluccio had been sentenced to two years probation following a vehicle accident that injured two people. As he already had two "driving under the influence" convictions, he was required to use a breathalyzer daily. What product did Galluccio blame for a positive test on the device?|
Toothpaste. Galluccio maintained that he hadn't imbibed any alcohol but had brushed his teeth prior to the test. The judge didn't buy the story and sentenced Galluccio to a year in prison for violating his probation.
Many types of toothpaste do contain alcohol in the form of sorbitol, which is used as a sweetener, although there are conflicting opinions as to whether the amount is significant enough to affect a breathalyzer test. Some sources state that a slight positive reading will register within the first few minutes after using toothpaste while others maintain that a significant quantity would need to be ingested to affect the test.
|In 2009, four New York men were charged with conspiring to commit terrorist acts, but they maintained that they were entrapped by an FBI informant. The method used would be popular in Kentucky. With what did the men allege they were enticed?|
Fried chicken. Laguerre Payen, James Cromitie, David Williams and Onta Williams were indicted on charges of conspiring to bomb synagogues and military planes. Attorneys for the men claimed that they were not only plied with gifts and cash but also with an open account at a local fried chicken restaurant. According to one of the attorneys, "you can't watch the [hidden video] tapes that you don't see eating going on". The Assistant U.S. Attorney on the case said that he would investigate the "chicken relationship". The men, meanwhile, were confined to prison pending trial.
Did you find these entries particularly interesting, or do you have comments / corrections to make? Let the author know!
Send the author a thank you or
Submit a correction