International Law

Court OKs Sleeping Judge at Jury Trial


Saying that a jury trial requires a judge’s physical presence rather than his attention, a divided Australian appeals court panel decided that a slumbering judge did not require retrial of two men convicted on drug charges. Each was sentenced to more than a decade in prison.

The judge, who suffered from sleep apnea, retired about a year after the July 2004 trial. The two convicted defendants said he repeatedly nodded off and even snored during the trial, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

A two-jurist majority of the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal panel held that the case should not be retried, the newspaper reports, because there is “no relevant distinction to be made between a judge who is asleep and one who is awake but inattentive.”

In a dissent, Acting Justice John Basten said it is “an essential feature of a trial by jury that the judge be present and conscious during the whole of the trial proceedings.”

(Hat tip: Digg.)

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