An Illinois Appellate Court panel recently decided that if a judge falls asleep during crucial evidence or motions during a trial, the defendant does not get a new trial.
During trial for spree-killer Nicholas Sheley in Rock Island in May of 2014, Judge Jeffrey O’Connor fell asleep while reviewing security footage. The lights were dimmed so the court could see the footage, after the evidence was played, the defense attorney asked the judge to turn the lights back on. The judge didn’t reply because he was asleep. The defense attorney was Jeremy Karlin. “I say in kind of my loud, outdoor court voice: Judge?…..And there was no response,” Karlin said. “The prosecutor did the same. So I approach the bench and yell: Judge! And he still no response. Then the judge got nudged by the clerk, and he woke up. (Then) as I would note in the record, it was not the first time he had fallen asleep.” O’Connor, denied Karlin’s request for a new trial as well as allegations that he had actually fallen asleep. The appeals court ruled the evidence against Sheley was overwhelming and that O’Connor napping had no effect on the trial. The Illinois Appellate Court ruled 2-1 that so long as the judge was not sleeping through crucial evidence or motions, an unexpected nap is harmless.