Sleeping Judge Reversed

A Toronto judge fell asleep in the middle of a criminal trial but woke up when a defence lawyer dropped a 2,136-page copy of the Criminal Code on the desk in front of him, a court was told yesterday.

Mr. Justice Ayres Couto convicted Andras Deak of mischief and criminal harassment at the end of the trial on July 18, 2001, and sentenced him to two years' probation. But an appeal court overturned the conviction yesterday, saying Couto's ability to observe the demeanour of a key witness might have been impaired.

Couto dozed off during cross-examination of the complainant during the Old City Hall trial, according to an affidavit filed in Ontario Superior Court by Kim Schofield, Deak's trial lawyer.

Unsure it was really happening, Schofield said she turned to check with her assistant, Cyndi Burns, who "agreed that it appeared His Honour had fallen asleep."

Crown Attorney Jennifer Strasberg confirmed it as well, said Schofield, who, along with her colleague, came up with a plan.

"We decided that I would drop a copy of Tremeear's Criminal Code ... in order to wake His Honour," she said in her affidavit. "I dropped the Code and His Honour was visibly stirred from his slumber."

I've seen courtroom clerks and bailiffs fall asleep, but never a judge. Details here from The Toronto Star.