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Twinkie defense
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Twinkie defense

In jurisprudence, a "Twinkie defense" is a criminal defendant's claim that some unusual factor entered into the causes or motives of the alleged crime. This biological defense is a so-called "innovative defense," through which defendants argue that they should not be held criminally liable for actions which broke the law, as they were suffering from the effects of allergies, stimulants (such as coffee and nicotine), sugar, and/or vitamins. Today, it is a derogatory label implying that a criminal defense is artificial or absurd.


The expression derives from the 1979 trial of Dan White, a San Francisco, California (U.S.) City Supervisor who shot to death Mayor George Moscone and fellow City Supervisor Harvey Milk on November 27, 1978. During the trial, a psychiatrist, Martin Blinder, testified that White had been depressed at the time of the crime, successfully arguing for a ruling of diminished responsibility.

As part of this testimony, Blinder cited White's uncharacteristic eating of Twinkies and drinking of Coca-Cola as evidence of this depression — briefly mentioning that this may also have worsened the depression. The unpopularity of the eventual manslaughter verdict (a lighter sentence which set off the White Night riots) gave rise to the interpretation that White's lawyers had used depression caused by Twinkies as his primary defense. Contrary to popular belief, however, White's defense in fact argued that this consumption was unusual for him and reflected already existing mental instability.

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