Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Man acquitted of sexual assault charges on sleepwalking defense  

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35 year-old Alan Ball fell asleep on a couch after drinking heavily at a house party. Sometime during the night, he walked upstairs and got into bed with a girl not even 13 years-old and kissed her on the lips. His defense? He doesn't remember any of it - he was sleepwalking the entire time. Because of the seriousness of the offense (sexual assault against a child), two experts were called in to examine the case. They concluded that Alan was telling the truth, and he was set free.

I'm inclined to believe him. Ball had a long history of sleepwalking and it ran in his family. Moreover, experts said that his behavior is concurrent with sleepwalking, since he did nothing more with the young girl than climb into bed and kiss her on the lips. It's possible that in his sleeping state, he subconsciously assumed he was getting into bed with his wife. Though charges were dropped, he went through hell. Ball lost his job, suffered alienation, and was separated from his own 5 year-old daughter for a year.

Though Mr. Ball's case seems legit, this sheds light on some other cases that certainly aren't. The "I was sleepwalking" excuse is more common than you might think, but don't assume that experts are brought in every time to thoroughly examine the culprit's history and make an educated decision. From the Daily Mail:

The defence is known as automatism, with those who commit indecent acts in their sleep said to be suffering from 'sexsomnia'.

This year the Daily Mail told the story of Jane McKenna, 33, from Hampshire.

She claimed she had been raped by a friend's husband, Jason Jeal, only for him to be cleared on the basis that he was sleepwalking - even though he had no medical history of the condition.

After the case, Solicitor General Vera Baird said such arguments should only be allowed in court backed up by well-founded medical evidence.

The year before, RAF mechanic Kenneth Ecott, 26, was cleared of raping a 15-year-old girl at a house party in Poole, Dorset after arguing that he had been in a state of automatism at the time.

How could a sleeping person have the capability to hold down a struggling woman and rape her? It blows my mind that a court could ever rule that.

What next?

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1 comments: to “ Man acquitted of sexual assault charges on sleepwalking defense


  • January 2, 2009 at 11:15 PM  

    You might be interested in this related post and the comment thread:
    http://professorwhatif.wordpress.com/2008/11/18/what-if-you-rape-someone-while-sleepwalking/