During the trial, Manilla’s attorneys attempted to plead the “Whittington Cheney Defense,”a niche legal maneuver that applies exclusively to shootings involving lawyers, and which also stipulates that the victim apologize to the culprit.
Whittington Cheney Defense Precedent
Harry Whittington, one of the two namesakes for the defense strategy, is the Texas attorney gunned down by former Vice President Dick Cheney in a “hunting accident” that occurred on February 11, 2006.
Whittington was hit in the face, neck and torso by Cheney while he was attempting to locate a bird he had shot. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department gave the following summary of the incident: “Whittington downed a bird and went to retrieve it. While he was out of the hunting line, another covey was flushed and Cheney swung on a bird and fired, striking Whittington in the face, neck and chest.”
Despite the various controversies and loose ends associated with the shooting, Whittington achieved notoriety by famously apologizing to Cheney, the man who filled his face full of buckshot. After six days of hospitalization, Whittington told reporters, “My family and I are deeply sorry for everything Vice President Cheney and his family have had to deal with.”
“Whittington Cheney Defense” Not Applicable, Jury Rules
Despite a persuasive argument from Manilla’s defense counsel, prosecutors in the case successfully refuted the “Whittington Cheney” tactic on its own merits, winning over jurors.
“In order to execute the ‘Whittington Cheney Defense’ with any favorable results,” wrote Effram Chult, a legal analyst following the case, “each particular must align. In the Groh case, the problem was that the shooter, David Manilla, was the attorney. Under the specifics of the precedent, the victim must be a lawyer. The shooter must also be a person of such influence, power and merciless demeanor that the victim’s survival is seen as a divine gift, with any legal retaliation creating the perceived threat of greater potential harm in the future.”
In a final appeal, Manilla’s lawyers attempted to draw more granular parallels to the Cheney element of the defense: “Though not specifically addressed in the precedent, Mr. Manilla has suffered three heart attacks and has six arterial stent implants. With his wretched history of heart disease, we feel his situation is startlingly similar to Mr. Cheney’s and therefore urge the jury to consider this aspect of the case carefully during their deliberations.”
But prosecutors managed to convince the jury to discount this evidence because it did not substantially affect the outcome.
Chult agreed. “In order for the victim to completely subjugate himself to the aggressor, waive his rights, refuse to press charges, and ultimately apologize for being in the way of the shooter’s bullet, the victim must live. I admire the creativity of the defense, but this was a fairly open and shut case.”
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