A (Mock) Court in Pittsburgh Just Put Luke Skywalker on Trial for Murder

Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved
Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved

A court in Pittsburgh has acquitted Luke Skywalker of 5999 murder charges for causing the destruction of the Death Star.

The trial put the two highest-ranking rulers of the Galactic Empire, Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, on the witness stand, along with the top leaders of the Rebel Alliance—Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Skywalker himself—to recount the events leading up to the explosion of the Galactic Empire star base.

While Skywalker (attorney Matthew Feinman) and his counsel did not deny the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s charge that “on or about May 25, 1977,” the Jedi fired a proton torpedo at a design flaw in the industrial celestial object, leading to its complete destruction and the deaths of most crew members, Skywalker claimed the action was justified, given the Death Star’s recent use as a weapon of planetary destruction.

“I destroyed it because the Empire was posing a threat to the entire Rebel Alliance and the galaxy as a whole,” Skywalker, waiving his Fifth Amendment right, told the courtroom. “The Death Star could destroy an entire planet. If I didn’t destroy it, millions or even billions of lives could have been lost. The dark forces have no regard for human life and would destroy everything in their path.”


Photo courtesy of Mark Hensler

The jury believed it. Said jury was a made up of Pittsburgh-area grade-schoolers, many of whom were wearing Star Wars T-shirts for the occasion, so it was arguably a tainted jury pool. Still, the Tatooine farmhand-turned-political radical left the courtroom as free as an unsaddled Bantha.

The “trial,” which took place on April 13, 2019 at Dormont Public Library, was one in a series of the Allegheny County Bar Association’s annual “Fairy Tale Mock Trials,” meant to give kids an introduction to the legal system, via material they know, and also allow local lawyers to show off their cosplay skills. (Last year, the Bar Association tried Harry Potter for the death of Professor Quirrell. The kids let The Boy Who Lived walk, too.)

“When they deliberate, they can be so thoughtful that I think a few of them could become interested in law,” attorney Catherine S. Loeffler, one of the event's organizers, said.

The prosecution’s key witnesses emphasized the loss of life on the Death Star and in what Emperor Palpatine (attorney Casey Rankin, who specialized in toxic tort defense) characterized as an “unprovoked attack.”

“Without warning or provocation, Luke Skywalker and members of the Rebel Alliance attacked us and the Battle of Yavin ensued,” Palpatine/Rankin hissed. “Our men fought valiantly but they were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the Rebel Alliance.”

Under questioning from “prosecutor” John Ogden, Palpatine put the cost of the destroyed property at “a gazillion galactic credits.”

“It sounds like you have a civil suit on your hands,” Ogden retorted.

“The Empire has much to settle,” the hooded galactic overlord agreed.

A scene from the mock trial of Luke Skywalker at Pittsburgh's Dormont Public Library
Photo courtesy of Mark Hensler

Darth Vader (attorney Stephen Elek) recounted the crack to his imposing sense of calm and control on day of the alleged crime. “I looked out the window and I saw the entire Rebel Alliance armada,” he said. “There must have been over 200 ships right outside the Death Star.”

However, Vader and Palpatine proved to be unsympathetic witnesses when, under questioning from Skywalker’s attorney, Brian Shepard, both admitted to using the Death Star in planet-wide massacres.

When Shepard asked if the Empire’s agenda consisted of "blowing up their planets, destroying cities, and killing thousands of people,” Vader angrily retorted: “Yes, but it was a greater purpose yooouuu wouldn’t understand.”

The testimony of Storm Trooper Number 12 (University of Pittsburgh postdoctoral associate Wynn Meyer) may have struck a few heartstrings. “They surrounded us from all sides with a strategically coordinated attack,” the servant of the Empire, who testified in uniform, said. “It was clear they had been planning this for a while, definitely premeditated. They were heavily armed and many of my best men were killed before my very eyes.” She admitted that as the rebels advanced, “it was hard to hit anyone.”

The defense’s strategy hit a snag when key witness Han Solo (attorney Adam Rosenthal) was offended that defense attorney Ogden had not heard of his smuggling vessel. “You haven’t heard of the Millennium Falcon?” Solo asked, perplexed, when Ogden asked him to describe the ship that took part in the attack. “That’s the ship that did the Kessel Run in [less than] 12 parsecs.”

Judge Amanda Kraft (a business attorney by day) interrupted proceedings to halt the cross-talk about the Millennium Falcon.

Princess Leia is sworn in to take part in the trial of Luke Skywalker
Photo courtesy of Mark Hensler

The defense’s final witness, Princess Leia (attorney Lea Lach), returned to a point of moral clarity by mournfully describing the destruction of her home planet, Alderaan, via the Death Star.

“By destroying the Death Star, we saved lives,” her highness said. “Darth Vader and the Empire should be on trial. My home planet was a peaceful place with no places or military bases. They killed millions of people and we killed 5999 to stop them from killing millions more. This trial is an outrage. It’s unfortunate those lives were lost, but we were doing it for the greater good.”

After deliberating with a court officer, the 3-foot-tall jury spokesman agreed. “We find Luke Skywalker innocent and think Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader should be on trial.”

Somehow, Skywalker and his defense team managed to turn the prosecution’s star witnesses into the defendants—a Jedi mind trick if there ever was one.

Which Fictional Character Are You? This Online Quiz Might Give You an Eerily Accurate Answer

Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister is the unofficial king of witty side comments. Are you, too?
Peter Dinklage's Tyrion Lannister is the unofficial king of witty side comments. Are you, too?
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

While watching a TV show or movie, you might find yourself trying to draw parallels between you and a certain character you’d want to be. If you’re like many viewers, it’s probably one of the heroic ones—the handsome private investigator with a tortured past and an unerring moral compass or the fearless queen who builds her kingdom from nothing and defends it to the death, etc.

But which character would you actually be? Openpsychometrics.org, a site that develops personality tests, has a new online quiz that might give you an uncannily accurate answer. You’ll be confronted with a series of 28 questions that ask you to pinpoint where you fall between two traits on a percentage-based spectrum. For example, if you’re more playful than serious, slide the bar toward the word playful until you’ve reached your desired ratio. The ratio could be anything from 51 percent playful and 49 percent serious, to a full 100 percent playful and not a single iota of seriousness at all. Other spectrums include artistic versus scientific, dominant versus submissive, spiritual versus skeptical, and more.

Once you’ve completed the quiz, you’ll find out which fictional character your personality most closely matches from a database of around 500 television and film characters. To pinpoint the personalities of the characters themselves, the quiz creators asked survey participants to rate them on a series of traits, and those collective results are then compared to your own self-ratings.

If you scroll down below your top result, you’ll see an option to show your full match list, which will give you a much more comprehensive picture of what kind of character you’d be. My top two results—which, ironically, were the same as Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy’s—were The West Wing’s C.J. Cregg and Joey Lucas, suggesting that we both have a no-nonsense attitude, a perfectionist streak, and an apparent aptitude for national politics that (at least in our cases) will likely go unfulfilled.

The fictional twin of managing editor Jenn Wood, on the other hand, is Game of Thrones’s Tyrion Lannister, unofficial king of witty side comments and all-around fan favorite. This was not surprising. As runner-up, Jenn got her personal hero, Elizabeth Bennet, which, in her words “makes me feel better about myself.” (Jenn has Pride and Prejudice-themed “writing gloves,” which seems important to mention.)

Take the quiz here to find out just how much you have in common with your own personal (fictional) hero.

Beyond Tiger King: 10 Fascinating Animal Documentaries You Can Stream Right Now

A scene from Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit (2018).
A scene from Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit (2018).
Markham Street Films

By now, you've probably already binged Netflix's bewilderingly bonkers docuseries Tiger King (2020). If you're ready to dive deeper into the animal kingdom, there are plenty more documentaries out there. From wildcats to whales, these 10 films will take you on a cinematic adventure around the world, introducing you to captivating creatures and the people who love them.

1. The Tigers of Scotland (2017)

The Tigers of Scotland (2017) brings viewers as up close and personal as possible with a small but mighty feline: the Scottish wildcat. The film delves into the efforts to conserve the disappearing Highland tiger, as well as the history and mythology surrounding the UK’s only “big cat.”

Watch it: Netflix, Amazon, iTunes

2. Ghost of The Mountains (2017)

This 2017 Disneynature documentary will transport you to the world’s highest plateau in search of a family of snow leopards. These cats are famously tough to find, so Ghost of the Mountains offers viewers behind-the-scenes footage of what it’s like to track the elusive beasts.

Watch it: Netflix, Google Play, Youtube

3. Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit (2018)

This delightful documentary takes you deep into the competitive cat show circuit. Both charming and at times cutthroat, the film brings viewers on a journey to see which of the many cool cats and kittens will be crowned Canada's top cat.

Watch it: Netflix

4. Kingdom of the White Wolf (2019)

Follow along as a National Geographic explorer and photographer embeds with a white wolf pack in the high Arctic. These wild wolves aren't used to seeing people, giving the filmmakers—and audience—an intimate window into the pack's daily lives and familial bonds. In addition to showcasing captivating footage of the animals, the three-part docuseries also features sweeping views of the starkly beautiful Ellesmere Island.

Watch it: Disney+, YouTube TV

5. Dogs (2018)

This docuseries, which highlights various dogs and their humans from around the world, celebrates the bond between people and their pups. But it’s more than just a montage of feel-good moments about humankind’s best friend: Each episode tells a broader tale about the human condition, crafting an emotional narrative that pulls at the heartstrings like a puppy tugging on a toy.

Watch it: Netflix

6. Dancing with the Birds (2019)

These birds will put your dad moves to shame. Watch the male avian performers shimmy, shake, and flash their feathers while attempting to woo their female mates. The documentary, narrated by Stephen Fry, offers a colorful look at the wonderfully wacky world of bird mating rituals.

Watch it: Netflix

7. Honeyland (2019)

This documentary follows Hatidze Muratova, one of the last wild beekeepers in a remote village in North Macedonia. She lives with her ailing mother, nurturing a traditional way of beekeeping passed down through the generations and striking a balance between making a living and maintaining ecological balance. But everything changes when a nomadic family settles nearby, threatening Muratova’s way of life. The resulting story is both sweet and stinging.

Watch it: Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play

8. Virunga (2014)

This 2014 documentary highlights the park rangers fighting to protect the Congo’s Virunga National Park, home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla. As poaching and oil exploration threaten the park, the rangers and conservationists risk their lives to guard the rare creatures that inhabit it.

Watch it: Netflix

9. Harry & Snowman (2016)

In the 1950s, Harry deLayer bought Snowman, a run-down plow horse destined for slaughter, for just $80 at an auction. Within months, the two were taking the show jumping circuit by storm, launching both horse and rider to new heights. This documentary tells the story of the friendship the two developed, and chronicles their lives both in and out of the competitive spotlight.

Watch it: Amazon Prime

10. The Whale and the Raven (2019)

The waters around Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest are a haven for whales, who feed and find refuge in the quiet channels. With stunning visuals, this documentary highlights the tension of a community’s push to protect its wild places against the pressures of the ever-encroaching natural gas industry.

Watch it: Amazon Prime

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