An Important Self-Defense Case: Empire v. Solo

In 1976, Star Wars made a huge impact. In the context of recently popular Westerns, nobody really questioned lovable outlaw Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford) when he blew away unlovable bounty hunter Greedo (played by some guy in a leftover Creature from the Black Lagoon suit) in the Mos Eisley cantina.

Well, not “nobody.” Pin-headed lefties and kittens > violence airheads thought that was awful, and they were able to work their way on George Lucas. Lucas later changed the film to show Han firing only after Greedo shot first — and missed at point-blank range.  (Fans of the series have been known to explain the prequels by suggesting that Mr Lucas was suffering from early-onset Alzheimers, which would also tidily explain his attempt to whitewash Han’s killshot).

The fans recoiled (no pun intended). It even led to a killer (npi again) YouTube video by film editor and commentator Bill Whittle. “What the hell is wrong with George Lucas?!?”:

Now comes (as the courts say) lawyer Josh Gilliland, to examine Han’s actions in the light of the Model Penal Code (a bar-association suggested code that is one basis for the criminal statutes in many US states). Josh is one of the “Legal Geeks,” which probably explains both the attempt to parse the law out, and the Star Wars fandom.  Take it away, Josh:

Han’s Legal Justification For Shooting Greedo First

Posted on August 20, 2012 by Josh Gilliland

Han Shot First.

There is no question about it.

And in 1977, no one questioned it.

However, the legal question remains, was Han Solo legally justified in killing Greedo (Provided the Empire’s Doctrine of Fear had similar Common Law traditions)?

For those who do not have the scene memorized, here is the dialog from the original version from IMDB:

Greedo: [In Huttese; subtitled] Going somewhere, Solo?

Han Solo: Yes, Greedo. I was just going to see your boss. Tell Jabba I’ve got his money.

Greedo: It’s too late. You should have paid him when you had the chance. Jabba’s put a price on your head so large, every bounty hunter in the galaxy will be looking for you. I’m lucky I found you first.

Han Solo: Yeah, but this time I’ve got the money.

Greedo: If you give it to me, I might forget I found you.

Han Solo: [stealthily going for his blaster] I don’t have it with me. Tell Jabba…

Greedo: Jabba’s through with you! He has no use for smugglers who drop their shipments at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser.

Han Solo: Even I get boarded sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?

Greedo: You can tell that to Jabba. At best, he may only take your ship.

Han Solo: Over my dead body!

Greedo: That’s the idea… I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.

Han Solo: Yeah, I’ll bet you have.

[Han blasts Greedo, then heads out, tossing the bartender a coin]

Han Solo: Sorry about the mess.

via Han’s Legal Justification For Shooting Greedo First | The Legal Geeks.

Read the whole thing (link above). And while you’re at it, give a listen to the entertaining 15 minute MP3 on the same page, in which Josh and Jessica Mederson discuss this from both a cinematic and legal point of view.

Personally, we’d like to point out that the Star Wars universe has farmers, warriors, politicians (ptui!), priests of a sort, and even hereditary nobility, but we can’t recall the lawyers — if they’re present, it’s at a much lower level than today’s society.

Why is that? Well, it’s an avanced civilization. A problem addressed with lawyers enriches lawyers endlessly and is never resolved. A problem resolved with a blaster finds instant resolution, and tends to stay resolved.

Happy blasting.


Hat tip: Attila the Grandma, via

2 thoughts on “An Important Self-Defense Case: Empire v. Solo

  1. Colonel Senator Lindsey Graham

    Speaking of lawyers, brave defenders of our freedoms as immortalized by Shakespeare (why else would they want to kill all the lawyers first?), we are defamed here:

    Also, maybe there are no lawyers in the movies because the EVIL EMPEROR killed them so that they could not defend the poor and the oppressed from his evil designs. Didn’t think of that did you?

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