A (Mock) Court in Pittsburgh Just Put Luke Skywalker on Trial for Murder
By Nick Keppler
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.”
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.
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.
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.