In 1979, a man was able to get his sentence reduced based on a sugary snack.
The so-called "Twinkie Defense" helped convict Dan White of voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder in the killing of San Francisco gay activist Harvey Milk.
White's attorneys argued that he was depressed and therefore his capacity for rational thought was diminished. His consumption of sugary foods and his slovenly appearance were evidence of that depression, they argued. Although many considered the defense ludicrous at the time, the jury evidently disagreed.
Not long ago, battered women's syndrome was considered just another oddball strategy, Claus said.
"Nobody thought a defense where you argued that you could kill somebody in self-defense because they beat you up six months ago would go anyplace. Nowadays we accept it as a matter of course," Claus said.
In 2002, a San Francisco man who dismembered his landlady was found insane after claiming he was "sucked into the Matrix."
But Lesnevich told ABC News there's an important difference between his "too fat to kill" defense and the "Twinkie" or "battered women's syndrome" defense.
"They're saying this is what caused me to do it, this is my motivation," he said. "This defense is, 'I couldn't do it. ... This is a physical inability."
Another lawyer in Ates' defense, Michael Mildner, told ABC News the unusual strategy was simply logical.
"It's a defense that logically suggests itself from the facts of the case. It wasn't set out to be a novel defense," Mildner said.
A jury is expected to begin deliberating next week after closing arguments Wednesday.