When Judges and Jurors Nap

When judges and jurors are found napping during a criminal trial proceeding, it is a violation of the defendants rights.  The key player in the adversarial process has traditionally been the jury.  Judges play a more active role in the conduction of the trial.   In 1987, in the case of Tanner versus the United States, he was suing because his attorney received information from Daniel Hardy, a juror, that seven of his fellow jurors drank alcohol during lunch breaks, some smoked marijuana, another took drug paraphernalia into the courthouse, and one fell asleep during his trial (Helper, 1).  In Tanners trial, he was convicted on several counts of mail fraud.  If the majority of the jurors were under the influence of alcohol or a drug substance, or even asleep, they could not have been 100 percent focused on the trial at hand.  The District Court denied a motion for a new trial. Supreme Court Justice OConnor argued that Although ingestion of alcoholdrugs etc is wrong, it is no more than an outside influence such as a virus, poorly prepared food, or lack of sleep.

However, in April 2009, two jurors were replaced at a fraud trial for falling asleep.  One was caught falling asleep during opening statements, which tells everyone the whole reason that they are in court.  The other was caught sleeping twice.  The trial involved Evergreen Holmes, a financial firm.  The former bookkeeper and sales manager were involved in defrauding homeowners and investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Owner and president, David Willan, was convicted of 86 felonies in December 2009.

These cases discussed dealt with white-collar crimes.  The life of the defendant was in the hands of the jury.  A juror cannot know all of the details of a case if he is sleeping.  In the Tanner case, it was never discussed if the jurors allegations about his fellow jurors were true. They didnt test their blood alcohol levels or perform drug tests. In the second case, two jurors were actually caught sleeping.  If one cannot stay alert and awake through a very important trial, then he should be dismissed.


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