You Snooze, You Lose: Pittsburgh Lawyer Falls Asleep at Trial

A Pittsburgh lawyer admitted that his clients’ conviction may have been directly linked to his “sleepiness” during the trial. In an attempt to overturn his clients’ criminal conviction for bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, lawyer Stan Levenson claims that the cold medicine he took during the course of the trial had caused him to become drowsy and made him nod off periodically during the trial.

It took the jury less than an hour to find the defendants guilty following the trial.

U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose, in a fairly unprecedented move, is considering ordering a new trial for the defendants now that this new information about what took place during the trial has come to light. When Judge Ambrose questioned the jurors in the case about the incident, eleven of the twelve jurors said they had noticed the defense lawyer falling asleep while testimony was being given.

Setting precedent here may clear the way for other lawyers to claim similar circumstances to appeal convictions after an unsatisfactory verdict; however, the significant embarrassment of falling asleep or otherwise admitting to inattention during a trial may be deterrent enough.