Monday, November 12, 2007

The Sleepwalking Defense

Sleepwalking, sleepdriving and even sleepcooking have been in the news a lot recently. Apparently, a couple of sleep medications have,as a side effect, sleepwalking. Stories abound about people driving in their sleep, cooking in their sleep and myriad other things while on Ambien. The latest story is the most interesting of all, sex while asleep, and not just sex,rape.

Dexter Ford, a fifty two year old homless man in Cincinnati is charged with the rape of a 23 year old University of Cincinnati student. Ford, who has had his share of problems with aggravated arson, breaking and entering and some drug related incidents(he is HIV positive to boot) was seen near a White Castle off of I-71 on top of the alleged victim. When the police arrived at the scene, the young student was sound asleep. It turns out that she has a sleep disorder problem and the heart of the defense of Mr Ford is that the young lady consented in her sleep.Now a consent while you are asleep is not really a consent. But then again, when someone says yes to sex, you very seldom think to ask her if she is sleepwalking, so Mr Ford may walk this thing, especially if the victim does not recall any of the events before waking up at the White Castle.

I used to sleepwalk a little as a child. I think most kids do. My friend Eric once pretended to sleepwalk onto the stage of a comedy club, where he disrupted the act of a hypnotist who was opening for Rosie O'Donnell. He was quickly shown the door.I bet that most people do some sleepwalking at some time in their lives. The fact of the matter is, there is probably a good deal of sleep sex going on. It would explain a lot of things that I have seen in life. But at some point don't you wake up ? I mean, what are the odds of you leaving your dorm room and wandering out the highway to a White Castle, having sex with a homeless person thirty years older than yourself and then going back into active sleep until the police arrive ? This seems like a fairly remote possibility. A better sleepwalking defense would be for Ford to say that he was sleepwalking and can't be held responsible for what he was doing. If he was taking Ambien, this would give both parties a deep pocket to shoot at in a law suit. Now we would be getting somewhere.

At any rate, sleepwalking is about to make a comeback. When I was a kid , you could not watch a cartoon or a situation comedy that at some point did not involve sleepwalking. It has been years since that has been a standard story line.People always walked with their arms extended. No one who sleep walks ever really does that. I don't know how that got started, maybe just to clue in the audience that the character was sleep walking. But there are thousdands of comedic possibilities with sleepwalking and now that people really are sleepwalking in large numbers, I expect that television and the movies will exploit them (the comedic possibilities, not the sleepwalkers). We would be seeing them now if it were not for this damn writer's strike.

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