Attorney: Blame Grand Theft Auto in Court, Get Rich

The use of Grand Theft Auto as a scapegoat isn't going anywhere, says law professor Ashley Lipson. The trick is worth too much money.

"A good defense lawyer will blame everyone in sight, except of course the client. When he or she runs out of people to blame, it's time to look around for objects. What could be better than a popular videogame?" Lipson reasoned to the Palm Beach Post.

James Waller, a practicing defense attorney--and gamer--admits to using the tactic. "Portraying your client as the victim of outside forces (be they child abuse, coercion by peers, or an ultra-violent video game industry) humanizes the client and shifts the culpability," he said.

As a gamer, Waller is put in a strange situation by using the "games made me do it" defense. His profession, however, wins out: "While I don't believe that violent video games tend to have any negative effects on otherwise healthy people, my job is to present ANY theory to a jury that would explain why my client did the things he did."

The tactic has come under fire from gamers in recent years after the legal antics of "games made me do it" defense champion Jack Thompson. Gamers have often expressed concern that widespread use of the tactic will spread the image that all game players are liable to commit crimes similar to those committed by a small segment of the population.

Nevertheless, Waller even has a strategy centered on the defense. In his experience, the defense works best on "an unsophisticated, typically older, somewhat more rural jury pool or judge. To an extent, the defendant is playing on the prejudices that these members of society already have towards video games. ... The jury knows that a lot of kids today are playing this Grand Theft Auto game and that it's very violent or adult before we even walk into the courtroom."

As a natural byproduct of his work, a defense that keeps Waller successful in his profession reinforces those prejudices.

Ironically, he is quick to point a finger when it comes to money. "The manufacturers do everything they can to make sure that they are a household name," he said. By "sensationalizing their own violence to the media, [and] doing idiotic things like leaving the 'Hot Coffee' code in the game," game companies are taking any publicity as good publicity, he claims.

For frustrated gamers concerned about their image, the accusation may be unsettling. As a lawyer, Waller certainly makes a convincing argument. His real reasoning may well be "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."