Fain v Commonwealth

Confusional arousals

Fain v. Commonwealth (1879) 78 Ky 183-� � 3[a], 11[a]—convicted but reversed on appeal
Bradley v. State (1925) 102 Tex Crim 41, 277 SW 147-� � 3[c], 11[a]—acquitted
Tibbs v. Commonwealth (1910, Kentucky)
R. v. Boshears (1960, England)—acquitted


Fain v. Commonwealth (1879) 78 Ky 183-� � 3[a], 11[a]—convicted but reversed on appeal

This case involved a man who fell asleep in the lobby of a Kentucky hotel. When a porter tried to wake him, the man drew a gun and shot the porter three times. While the porter held him on the floor, the man repeatedly yelled, “Hoo-wee!” He reportedly rose, left the room, and told a witness that he’d shot someone; when told who it was, the man conveyed sadness. He was found guilty of manslaughter, but the conviction was reversed on appeal when new evidence was introduced that he had a lifelong history of sleepwalking and that he’d been sleep-deprived before the attack.

Bradley v. State (1925) 102 Tex Crim 41, 277 SW 147-� � 3[c], 11[a]—acquitted

A Texas man, Isom Bradley, testified in the 1920s that he and his girlfriend were sleeping when he was awakened by a noise. He jumped up and fired shots with a pistol he had under his pillow. When he collected himself, he found his girlfriend dead at the foot of the bed. He was convicted of murder. The conviction was reversed on appeal after the jury was informed of the possibility that he had fired the shots without volition while still asleep.

Tibbs v. Commonwealth (1910, Kentucky)

The victim attempted to arouse Tibbs from sleep. Tibbs then beat the victim with his fists, and stabbed him to death with a knife. The jury considered the question of Tibbs� sanity and evidence was admitted showing that he was a sleepwalker. Although the court acknowledge “while in this state [he] was without self-control, and committed acts of which he had no recollection,” they failed to see “how these facts would constitute any defense other than that embraced in a plea of insanity.”

R. v. Boshears (1960, England)—acquitted

Staff Sergeant Willis Boshears, and American stationed in England, was acquitted of the murder of a young girl on the grounds of automatism.

It was the day before New Years, 1960 and Boshears, a Korean War vet with 49 combat missions under his belt, was told that his leave was cancelled. He would not be able to go home to see his wife and three kids in Ayr, Scotland, for the holiday.

Boshears proceeded to get drunk at the bar of the Bell Hotel, where he met up with an acquaintance, 20 year-old Jean Constable, and her new friend David Sault. The three drank together and then moved the party of Boshears� apartment.

Constable and Sault had intercourse on Boshears� living room rug and then again in his bedroom. After hours of partying, they agreed to spend the night. Sault then changed his mind and left.

Sometime between 12:30 and 1:00 a.m, Boshears felt “fingers clawing at his mouth.” He was on top of Constable’s dead body. He didn’t remember strangling her, but his hands were still around her neck.

In a sort of haze, he then cut off Constable’s hair and burned it, since hair is an identifiable feature. He then gave the body a bath, dressed it and placed it in the spare bedroom.

The next morning, Boshears awoke hung over, with the memory of what he thought was a very realistic dream. He realized what he had done when he opened the door to the extra room and saw the body on the floor.

Boshears destroyed evidence by burning Constable�s coat and removing her jewelry and disposing of it. The next day he wrapped the body in a blanket, drove it into the country and dumped it in a ditch, where a truck driver found it on January 3.

Because Boshears had been seen with the two young people, he was taken into custody very quickly. He pleaded not guilty and claimed he must have been sleeping. “There was no quarrel or argument. At no time did I make any overtures or sexual advances to her, nor did I have any desire to kill her or harm her in any way.

Boshears was tried in an English civilian court, where a jury returned a verdict of not guilty in just three hours.

Michael Davies

Sleep Scientist at sleepforensicsassociates.com
I'm a sleep expert with a passion for gardening and the outdoors. Nature is the best way to relax.

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