And finally… fair trial

An accused person in Illinois is not automatically entitled to a new trial if the presiding judge falls asleep, an appeal court has ruled.

The Illinois Appellate Court dismissed an appeal from convicted spree killer Nicholas Sheley, who said the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit erred in refusing his lawyers’ application for a mistrial.

Sheley’s lawyers said that Judge Jeffrey O’Connor had fallen asleep on more than one occasion during Sheley’s trial for four murders in Illinois.

On one occasion, the lights were dimmed to show video tapes. When they were finished, repeated requests for the judge to turn the lights back on went unanswered until a clerk poked him.

The appeal court said that as the evidence in the case was “overwhelming” and the judge was not called upon to make evidentiary rulings while asleep, his short nap was simply “harmless error”.

In a dissenting opinion, another appeal judge said the application for mistrial should have been granted.

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