Wretched hive of scum and villainy, or jury of his peers?
December 14, 2015 9:54 AM   Subscribe

The Legal Geeks discuss Han's legal justification for shooting Greedo first, via a link from The Mary Sue.
posted by bile and syntax (37 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
While the Empire seems quite willing to post storm troopers to check identity papers of travelers, it seems to have little interest in maintaining functioning legal systems on the planets it controls. Ultimately, any fault for the shooting can be laid at the feet of the now conveniently dead Emperor. Additionally, Greedo is an unappealing creature whose family is unlikely to get much traction in seeking justice, especially when the killer is enmeshed the the highest levels of the Rebel organization. I call cover up.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:06 AM on December 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Tatooine has a robust stand your ground law.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:15 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Empire is also Human Supremacist, so even if it decided to enforce the law in Tattooine, it's more than likely Han would have gotten off with a little more than a slap on the wrist. And in the unlikely event Solo was captured and couldn't escape from prison, he could always make a deal by offering intel on Jabba, a notorious organized crime boss and alien.
posted by FJT at 10:25 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I hate this question. Han shot first because he's a bad ass and a criminal and it sets up his character from the beginning, ultimately making his redemption at the Battle of Yavin all the more cheer-worthy. It's one of the few pieces of character development that Lucas got right and then he undid it with his revision. Is it legally justifiable? Who cares, this is Mos Eisley a frontier town where justice is dished out by blasters and gangsters.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:25 AM on December 14, 2015 [30 favorites]


(I've heard the reason for the revision was that otherwise the re-release would've gotten a different rating under more modern MPAA standards. I don't know if it's true, but it sounds plausible to me.)
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 10:28 AM on December 14, 2015


Too bad he shot Greedo on Tatooine and not earth.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:32 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've mentioned it elsewhere, but this past week I have been showing my daughter the series for the first time in preparation for The Force Awakens (Machete Order), and I wasn't sure what version was on the DVDs I borrowed from a co-worker. Before I put A New Hope in the player, I told her, "Whatever you may see in the scene in the Cantina in Mos Eisley, know that in reality, Han shoots first. Got it?"
posted by Rock Steady at 10:33 AM on December 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


This was awesome.

Now, show me some legal justification for shooting George Lucas circa 1999.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:37 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Too bad he shot Greedo on Tatooine and not earth.

Yeah, agreed. I'm a sucker for a good meta analysis just like the next fan, but finding out whether Leia would legally own the family lightsaber under the laws of the State of Connecticut is... unfulfilling. I'm sure Connecticut has great laws (and I hear the state has a lot to teach about revenge) but really, I see no reason to assume that the laws in an Empire far, far away would be even vaguely similar.
posted by pie ninja at 10:39 AM on December 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't think Han actually cared what the law was given that he was already a smuggler in, as Slarty Bartfast points out, a lawless frontier town. Possibly he didn't know what the law was. Not to mention that as far as the Empire was concerned, shooting Greedo was pretty low on the list of his crimes.
posted by immlass at 10:49 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Too bad he shot Greedo on Tatooine and not earth.

I... kind of had this reaction at first, and then I thought, "eh, might as well take it at face value, because it's funnier." Then I thought about it a little more, and I'm not sure that any society wouldn't come up with a fairly similar set of legal definitions. If you have a society where strangers are going to interact and violence is a possibility, you will have questions of self-defense and other kinds of justifiable violence. It's not unreasonable to assume that they would run along the same general course -- did Han reasonably expect serious injury or death, could he reasonably escape without lethal violence, and so on?

Narratively, Han is in the right because he is a hero and Greedo is a menacing and unappealing thug (and, as noted above, it sets up Han's story arc).

Morally, Han is probably still in the right because "I don't pick fights, but I finish them" is a valid moral precept in a "frontier setting" like Tatooine. It's not a very appealing morality, but then Han shouldn't be all that appealing at the beginning of the story.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:54 AM on December 14, 2015


While the Empire seems quite willing to post storm troopers to check identity papers of travelers, it seems to have little interest in maintaining functioning legal systems on the planets it controls.

The Jedi had like a thousand years to sort out policing across the republic but it is pretty clear they were doing nothing to establish even a basic rule of law on planets like Tatooine. The galaxy is a big place so I think palpatine is doing pretty well to have even the basics of an armed and operational police force in place after less than two decades, especially with the senate dragging him back for most of that period. Did your see how quickly those stormtroopers turned up at the cantina after obi-wan took that guy's arm off?
posted by biffa at 10:58 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I heard the judge sentenced him to 12 parsecs in the sarlacc pit, with time off for good behavior.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:59 AM on December 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


"I saw Greedo's hand make a sudden movement toward his weapon. I feared for my safety, and for the safety of others in the Mos Eisley Cantina."
posted by cardboard at 11:10 AM on December 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


The dude whose arm Ben chopped off totally survived that, I guess, and didn't seek any legal redress for the assault or compensation his injuries.
posted by straight at 11:12 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The dude whose arm Ben chopped off totally survived that

He just grew a new one, like sharks do with teeth. He was an alien!

(I've always kind of wondered why Han shooting first was a thing, while Obi-wan's casual maiming of a guy was not worth of mention (especially when he has Jedi mind stuff to diffuse the situation).
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:15 AM on December 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


Did your see how quickly those stormtroopers turned up at the cantina after obi-wan took that guy's arm off?

Yes. And let's not forget how effective they are at recovering stolen droids and settling domestic disputes.
posted by FJT at 11:29 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The dude whose arm Ben chopped off totally survived that

If it was his arm. Not his prehensile, breathing cock.

and didn't seek any legal redress for the assault or compensation his injuries.

He had the death sentence on twelve systems (sic), which probably put him off going to the troopers, most likely as a result of the increasingly holistic approach to crime prevention being introduced by the empire, would be my guess.
posted by biffa at 11:36 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I imagine the law on Tatooine can be summed up in its entirety as: "would this piss of Jabba?"

While the Empire seems quite willing to post storm troopers to check identity papers of travelers

They're just port control. Their main concern is keeping the scum and villains from getting out into the Empire (and to get the Emperor's cut from the Hutts). They don't give a crap about what happens on planet.
posted by bonehead at 11:38 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


the laws in an Empire far, far away

And don't forget "a long time ago"--i.e., many centuries/millenia before Common Law even existed as a thing . . .
posted by flug at 11:41 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


also it's fiction
posted by shakespeherian at 11:50 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Did your see how quickly those stormtroopers turned up at the cantina after obi-wan took that guy's arm off?

But they weren't police, right? They were on planet looking for rebels, and probably heard some guy in Jedi robes just used a lightsaber to cut some dude's arm off (pretty juicy gossip which would spread fast, given that Jedi are supposedly extinct). If they failed to follow that lead properly they could have ended up getting a nice demonstration of the force from Vader.
posted by thefoxgod at 11:56 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


> While the Empire seems quite willing to post storm troopers to check identity papers of travelers, it seems to have little interest in maintaining functioning legal systems on the planets it controls.

That was a dragnet by Imperial forces. Mos Eisley was evidently garrisoned by the Empire (to the great delight of the Bennett sisters), but considering the importance of recovering the lost plans, the Star Destroyer in order probably dropped a number of its shock troopers as reinforcements.

> The Jedi had like a thousand years to sort out policing across the republic but it is pretty clear they were doing nothing to establish even a basic rule of law on planets like Tatooine.

The Jedi were likewise ill-suited to be in the policing role. Top-tier soldiers like them, with a lifetime of training, advanced skills, trained in politics as well as warfighting-- those units are strategic assets, not tactical elements (typically), and are definitely far too rare and valuable to be engaged in a policing role. I'm not saying cops need to be expendable, but you certainly can't spend some of your most valuable people on a role that can be filled, however badly, by a Stormtrooper who didn't have the sense or charisma to get a better post than Tatooine, the litterbox of the galaxy.

We know who was running the show on Tatooine, don't we? The Hutts had control over everything including domestic law enforcement, such as it was. They maintain a little bit of order here; they look away from the Hutt's activities there (the Cantina, if not run by Hutts, was paying tribute or protection to them for certain), and everyone who goes along gets along. The garrison stayed out of the way of the Hutts, and the Hutts didn't dispatch hungry rancors.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:15 PM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


While the Empire seems quite willing to post storm troopers to check identity papers of travelers

Definitely one of the required jobs of an occupation force. And I suppose living in a city under occupation is the perfect time to commit murder. As long as the victim isn't connected or wanted by the occupying force, then they're not going to chase down every random crime. Someone was shot? One of ours? No? Whatevs.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:17 PM on December 14, 2015


I've always kind of wondered why Han shooting first was a thing, while Obi-wan's casual maiming of a guy was not worth of mention (especially when he has Jedi mind stuff to diffuse the situation

For what it's worth, Obi Wan did try to diffuse the situation first -- "This little one is not worth your trouble, here, let me get you something."
posted by namespan at 12:20 PM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


He was just cleaning his blaster and it went off. I seen it happen before.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:33 PM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


All the justifications for why Tattooine doesn't have a proper police force seem kind of flimsy due to the fact you could literally just spam a bunch of clone troopers and/or droids and program them with policing duties. And also let's not forget Anakin Skywalker and his mom were themselves victims of this lawless society, and Anakin went into his rant about cleaning up the galaxy on Tatooine itself! So it's strange that Vader just kinda forgot this for 20 years.
posted by FJT at 12:39 PM on December 14, 2015


And also let's not forget Anakin Skywalker and his mom were themselves victims of this lawless society, and Anakin went into his rant about cleaning up the galaxy on Tatooine itself! So it's strange that Vader just kinda forgot this for 20 years.

Let's not try to resolve our questions about Star Wars and the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code by just dragging in whatever extraneous fan-fiction you're referencing here.
posted by straight at 12:59 PM on December 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


I heard the judge sentenced him to 12 parsecs in the sarlacc pit, with time distance off for good behavior.

FTFY.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:13 PM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


He had the death sentence on twelve systems (sic), which probably put him off going to the troopers,

This made me realize / remember that I have never, ever believed the guy when he says this. It sounds like the kind of ginned-up thing people spout when they're posturing before a bar fight. I imagine him, had he survived, crying to a stormtrooper, "But then he hit me! I didn't do nuffin! I know my rights!"

Then it occurred to me that I recently went on about not believing Farscape's Crais when he talks about "irreversible contamination" of Aeryn, that I think he's just saying that to justify executing her and doesn't really buy it, and now I wonder when I got so cynical about the things obvious assholes say. I would have described myself as a fairly credulous kid, but apparently not so much, since my reaction to someone boasting that they're a deadly criminal is "uh huh, sure you are, tough guy". I don't think I would have lasted very long in Mos Eisley.
posted by Errant at 1:38 PM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


It sounds like the kind of ginned-up thing people spout when they're posturing before a bar fight.

Ponda Baba's Bad Day
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:48 PM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


> "But then he hit me! I didn't do nuffin! I know my rights!"

Don't forget "I deserve compensation!"
posted by Sunburnt at 9:40 PM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Something about Greedo's name makes me think he was an acquisitive, in-it-for-the-money type anyway.
posted by Mocata at 3:34 AM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Interesting logic, but I know quite a few people called Mohammed and none of them eat ham.
posted by biffa at 3:37 AM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The worst part of the Special Edition edit of this scene is that it's so poorly done.

The beam has to come out of Greedo's pistol sideways and then travel at a weird angle in order to both shoot first and miss Han Solo. It's embarrassing. It looks like a mistake.
posted by mpbx at 5:36 AM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


"The victim's blaster clearly discharged accidentally, but this Solo character seems to have been one if those 'concealed carry' nutjobs ready to just open fire in a crowded room the instant he hears a startling noise."
posted by straight at 6:46 AM on December 15, 2015


Lucas thinks Han is a cold blooded killer


Also he’s unfamiliar with John Wayne’s work where he’s shot first many times.

Or punched first


Or pool cued, first


And here he busts Dragline across the mouth with an axe handle.


And here he is gunning down cyclists.

…forgot where I was headed with this. Uh, anyway it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, yeah.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:26 AM on December 16, 2015


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