Your honor, members of the jury. Over the last two weeks, the prosecution has attempted to prove to you that I’m guilty. You’ve heard testimony from eyewitnesses; you’ve seen the security tapes; you’ve been told the results of the DNA analysis. It all certainly seems pretty convincing. But I have one very important question to ask you: have you heard of the Mandela effect?

The Mandela effect posits that there are a multitude of parallel universes, each with minor differences, and sometimes there’s a glitch where one or more people jump from one universe to another. For example, some people remember the Berenstain Bears books as having been spelled “Berenstein” instead. Similarly, while there is indeed a mountain of evidence against me, I don’t think I actually did this. I don’t remember doing it, I don’t know why I would have, and it just doesn’t seem like something I would do. The only logical explanation I can come up with is that, until recently, I was in a parallel universe where I didn’t commit this crime, and now through some interdimensional blip I’ve ended up here by mistake.

I’m not going to stand here and tell you that all of these people are lying about having seen me at the scene of the crime. It’s not my place to do that. Likewise, I hope that they’ll extend me the same courtesy of not saying I’m lying when I tell you that on the date in question, although the this-universe me might have been getting into trouble, I was off in my own parallel universe, minding my own business and probably even volunteering in my community or something. There’s technically no way to disprove it! So it’s only fair that we respect each other’s memories and chalk the discrepancy up to the multiverse.

In light of this reality—these multiple realities—I demand to be acquitted of all charges. You can’t convict me for something a parallel universe version of myself did. That’s like getting mad at someone for something they did to you in a dream. Anyway, if you put me in jail, there’s nothing to stop another parallel universe version of me from switching into this reality, and then that guy would be imprisoned without ever having had the chance to defend himself. That wouldn’t just be unlawful, it would be deeply immoral.

We all heard the gut-wrenching testimony from the victims about how their lives will never be the same. Truly sobering stuff. Now think about how my life will never be the same, now that I’ve been rudely torn from my home universe and thrust into this strange new one, where nothing is familiar. Isn’t that punishment enough already? And for what it’s worth, I remember Berenstain spelled with an
“e,” too, so that’s just icing on the disorientation cake.

I am aware that some of you are surprised I forewent a public defender and instead chose to represent myself in court. It is true, I have no legal experience or education… in this universe. However, I really believe I did go to law school, and therefore have no choice but to conclude that I did pass the bar exam, just in a different parallel universe. In that universe, I did really well in law school and am a super good lawyer—my whole argument in this case has been great based on the training I received there. And is it really fair to judge me by the legal standards of a foreign universe?

No. Of course not. Come on.

In fact, I’m supposed to be tried by a jury of my peers, right? Well, in order for people to really be my peers, it only seems right that they should be from my same parallel universe—one where, I repeat, I did not do this crime. In my universe, I’m a model citizen, law-abiding, and well-respected. If none of these jurors were in that universe with me, well, that’s probably at least grounds for a mistrial, isn’t it?

I’m seeing a lot of smirks and incredulous stares. But now that I think about it, there’s a nonzero chance you all just arrived in this reality, and that the convoluted defense you think I’ve been delivering up until a few seconds ago was actually what the alternate version of me in the universe you just left was saying. You don’t know what amazing points the me in this universe made before you got here! To be safe, I think you should all go ahead and assume I’ve spun a really convincing argument. Applauding for me right now probably couldn’t hurt, just in case.

At the end of the day, it’s about reasonable doubt, not proof. Is it possible that I’m innocent? Is there a chance that the Mandela effect is real, and not just a thing people made up because it’s easier to alter your whole understanding of reality than accept that you are simply wrong about stuff now and then? If so, you must return a verdict of not guilty. And if not, well, then I hope I can glitch into a more compassionate reality than this one. I’ve never faced a single consequence for my actions before, and I really don’t want to start now.