Saturday, April 23, 2016

"Sleepwalkers Who Kill": can people be held responsible for crimes "committed" while they "sleep"?


Sleepwalkers Who Kill” is an older documentary (2001) from Canada directed by Andrew Webb, narrated by Richard Lumson, covering the neuroscience and medicine behind a number of cases where people have been prosecuted for violent acts, even murders, committed when they said they were sleepwalking. Wikipedia calls it “homicidal sleepwalking”.

The film describes the stages if sleep, oscillating between delta (light sleep) and rem.  Sometimes complications occur when someone tries to awaken from rem sleep. I’ve experienced that, thinking someone was in the house.



One of the most notorious cases was a stabbing in January 1997 by LDS (Mormon) member Scott Falater of his wife. He would be sentenced to life with parole, as the jury felt his post-crime movements suggested awareness and premeditation (CBS news story ).

Another famous case was that of Kenneth Parks in Toronto in 1987, with details here.  He was able to drive a car while asleep, and deal with “space recognition” but not “face recognition”. He would eventually be acquitted, although his fact pattern is very complicated.

The film also shows a young couple in London currently (as of 2000) with the husband under treatment for violent acts while asleep.

YouTube link is here . The film is available for instant play on Netflix (as of April 2016).

A potentially related problem can be using dream content as evidence of crime (the Andrew Jenks film Jan. 22).

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