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5 Crimes Committed by Darth Vader

Today is Star Wars Day, so while we say May the Force (and the Fourth) Be With You, we also thought it would be fun to take a look at Darth Vader's rap sheet.

In the interested of space (pun mostly intended) and taste, we're confining our window to Episodes IV, V and VI, the unquestioned core of Star Wars canon: "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back," and "Return of the Jedi."

Here are five of Darth Vader's most infamous crimes:

  1. Burglary. The first scene in Star Wars opens with Darth boarding Princess Leia's ship, looking for stolen structural plans of the Death Star. The crime of burglary is defined as the unauthorized breaking and entry into a building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. Vader and other Imperial troops, like common thieves in the night, blast their way on to Leia's ship with the intent of stealing the Death Star's plans.
  2. Genocide. Vader only ramps up from there. The Death Star directs its laser on Alderaan, destroying the planet, and killing approximately two billion people. Genocide is the crime of destroying or conspiring to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. It may not matter that is was Grand Moff Tarkin's order to fire on Alderaan -- the Nuremberg trials established that "individuals cannot shield themselves from liability for war crimes by asserting that they were simply following orders issued by a superior in the chain of command."
  3. Murder. It was not the first time Darth Vader killed someone, but it might be his most remembered homicide -- Vader confronts his old teacher Obi Wan Kenobi on the Death Star and strikes him down. Because the killing happened during a light saber duel, Vader could contend he was acting in self-defense, but since Obi Wan had essentially given up in the fight, the best Vader might do is get it knocked down to voluntary manslaughter: an intended killing done in the heat of the moment.
  4. Kidnapping and False Imprisonment. Vader snatches Leia from her ship in "Star Wars." In "Empire," he captures Leia again, along with Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 in Cloud City in order to use them as bait to lure Luke Skywalker. All of these are extra-judicial kidnappings: taking a person from one place to another against his or her will. Vader might also be charged with false imprisonment, which is unlawfully restraining a person against her will without legal authority or justification.
  5. Torture. Vader tortures Leia to find out the location of the Rebel Base in "Star Wars," and he's back at in "Empire," torturing Han before encasing him in carbonite and delivering him to the bounty hunter Boba Fett. Whether these "enhanced interrogation methods" were allowed under a John Yoo memo remains unclear, so prosecution may be unlikely.

Enjoy Star Wars Day, everyone, and resist the lure of the Dark Side.

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