29 Practice: Case Study on Logic and Reasoning with the Chewbacca Defense

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Case Study in Logic

“We use logic every day. Even if we have never formally studied logical reasoning and fallacies, we can often tell when a person’s statement doesn’t sound right. Think about the claims we see in many advertisements today – Buy product X, and you will be beautiful/thin/happy or have the carefree life depicted in the advertisement” (Russ, 2011, p.6-6) states:

Have you heard of the “Chewbacca defense?” This case study can be used in your class to lighten the mood, but also consider the importance of logic in our legal system.

For more information — see https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Chewbacca_Defense



Here is the “Chewbacca defense,” well before Chewbacca made it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-1pmmajr2Q

And here is the 2nd Chewbacca Defense: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clKi92j6eLE

“Raul Martinez” wrote these comments below the Youtube video:

If used correctly, it could fool the jury. You basically pull a “red herring” which diverts people’s logic from the main issue and bring on a different issue in its place. Cochran, as O.J. Simpson’s lead defense attorney, used this when he decided to put on a knit cap to make a point. Here is the actual closing statement.
“He was going to put on a knit cap and some dark clothes, and he was going to get in his white Bronco, this recognizable person, and go over and kill his wife. That’s what they want you to believe. That’s how silly their argument is. And I said to myself, maybe I can demonstrate this graphically. Let me show you something. This is a knit cap. Let me put this knit cap on (Indicating). You have seen me for a year. If I put this knit cap on, who am I? I’m still Johnnie Cochran with a knit cap. And if you looked at O.J. Simpson over there–and he has a rather large head–O.J. Simpson in a knit cap from two blocks away is still O.J. Simpson. It’s no disguise. It’s no disguise. It makes no sense. It doesn’t fit. If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Now, Cochran’s red herring feint was effective, “The Juice” was acquitted of all charges. But, going back to Aristotle’s understanding of rhetoric, possibly used for good or ill, it is clear that Cochran’s defense lacked a true ethical substance or lodestar by which to guide it. It was all about winning, pure and simple. In any rhetorical situation, always keep the ethical aspect in mind — for it is there whether or no you decide to acknowledge it.

In class chat more about how you have seen this defense in recent events.


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The Public Speaking Resource Project by Lori Halverson-Wente and Mark Halverson-Wente is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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