This could become the equivalent of the Twinkie Defense for those who don’t really have sleep issues.

A man strangles his wife while dreaming about fighting off intruders in his sleep. Does that make him mad, bad or innocent? Recent research is helping to unpick these issues, and may help reveal who, if anyone, bears responsibility in such cases.

Last week, British man Brian Thomas appeared in court on a murder charge after strangling his wife as they slept in their camper van. The prosecution withdrew the charges after three psychiatrists testified that locking him up would serve no useful purpose. The judge said that Thomas bore no responsibility for his actions.

The case has cast a spotlight on the use of such sleepwalking defences in court. “If you look at the media reports there appears to be an upsurge in the use of the sleepwalking defence,” says Michel Cramer-Bornemann of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis.

Thomas had a genuine sleep disorder, but Cramer-Bornemann is concerned that in many other cases, the sleepwalking and other sleep-related defences are misused. Studies on the causes of sleepwalking may eventually make it easier to identify who has a genuine sleep disorder that could occasionally result in violence, and who is making it up.

Then there’s the whole sleepwalking while taking Ambien problem.

  1. sargasso says:

    The slippery slope of judicial summary based on dodgy pseudo science. Since the 90’s psychiatry has been relinquished to the outer suburbs of medicine, somewhere near podiatry, iridology and therapeutic massage.

  2. chuck says:

    Under the premise of “equal justice for all”, then if someone with a “genuine” sleep disorder can get away with murder, so should anyone else.

    Or, to be a bit more sensible, how about making people responsible for their actions? (And if they claim they can’t control their actions — lock them up for life; they are a danger to society.)

  3. kineticdc says:

    Eventually we will be prosecuted for what we think. Big Brother

  4. McCullough says:

    I was taking Ambien for a sleep disorder for a short time. I would awake in the middle of the night and raid the fridge..

    I’d wake up feeling like a million bucks, and not remember any of looked like a bear raided the kitchen.

  5. bobbo, trusting my government does the right thing says:

    Yes because the guilty will always sleep again. Remove their genes from the pool.

  6. R,O,P, says:

    Someone that has REM Behavior Disorder lacks normal muscle atonia during sleep and is capable of performing very complex motor function. It does not happen just one time. Odd (and potentially very dangerous) behaviors would be happening almost nightly. I am guessing this person has had a sleep study and this disorder was already in his medical records or this defense would have been thrown out. People with PTSD (a very prevalent condition amongst veterans) are also at very high risk for seriously injuring their partners. Working as a sleep tech, I never cease to be amazed at the incredibly bizarre things people do in their sleep. Sleep disorder medicine is hardly a medical pseudoscience. Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center is one of the best Sleep Clinics in the world and it’s director, Dr. Mark Mahowald, sits only behind Dr. William C. Dement in the field of sleep disorders.

  7. soundwash says:

    #6 R,O,P, said,

    Someone that has REM Behavior Disorder lacks normal muscle atonia during sleep and is capable of performing very complex motor function.

    #6 -then you should know sleep research long ago discovered and isolated the actual neurotransmitter and/or part of the brain responsible for activating/controlling the “muscle atonia” you speak of and have successful turned it off in first rats, then people using radiowaves and/or direct electrical stimulation, -and as you inferred, all manner of highly complex “sleepwalking” actions were observed.

    They did this with a cat and observed it “sleepwalk” in such a manner that it appeared it was coherently stalking presumably “prey” or say a mouse.

    I saw this in a documentary on google maybe a year ago, if i recall and it was truly a site to behold.

    The cat eye’s were barely open and literally looked like it was practicing pouncing on a mouse. -you know, like you see a when a kitten plays and pounces on an imaginary object.

    People in the sleep study “switched” so as to enable them to act out their REM sleep dream-state, or sleepwalk, similarly, looked as if they were awake and conscious of their actions.

    I wish i had bookmarked the vid..

    -anyway, IIRC, i’m pretty sure they were able to spot some trace chemical/neurotransmitter in all the test subjects blood that was present whenever they had one of these episodes. However, it only was present for a short time after the event.

    If they in fact, have a reliable marker they can test for to prove one of these events took place, then IMO no, they should not be held responsible.

    No doubt once the test is known, it would probably be a matter of weeks before someone figures out how to “fake” the test, to make it look like they were sleepwalking, -with obvious exploitative outcomes.

    The BIG issue and takeaway that i got from the whole study was that it seemed it was quite easy to use EMF/RF radio waves to switch any animal into this state.

    The abuse potential of this fact is what i found to be the most profound outcome of the whole study. -although of course, it was not stated outright in the documentary.

    As I have always said, our bodies are literally biological antennas, both readily receiving and transmitting (and influenced by) electromagnetic radio waves and the “waves” that consciousness itself uses to communicate with others as well as the universe at large.

    However, until (especially in western culture and medicine), we are taught this “phenomena” not only exists, but is a proven, observational and empirical science fact, -and not ridiculed as more quackery and pseudoscience..

    -All such phenomena will be dismissed as quackery and will be exploited or used for leverage in a negative fashion.

    #3’s comment: Eventually we will be prosecuted for what we think. Big Brother

    -will be the next logical step or outcome until *all* the false and suppressed science is finally exposed.

    The Mirror Image Rule applies..


  8. deowll says:

    If you kill people in your sleep you should sleep behind bars.

  9. Glenn E. says:

    This will turn into the Millionaire’s loophole defense, for murder. If O.J. Simpson had been smarter, he’d have gone with it. And then maybe he wouldn’t have needed five lawyers to get him off. Or wouldn’t have lost the civil case against him. Even though he apparently hasn’t had to pay out, even for that judgment. But usually, millionaires and billionaires have to choose the “temporary insanity” loophole, to get off from killing someone. How nice to have this alternative, now.


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