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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Sleepwalking As A Criminal Defense

     The murder trial of Albert Tirrell marked the first successful use of sleepwalking as a criminal defense. In 1846, a jury acquitted Tirrell of murder after his lawyer proved that he was a chronic sleepwalker.

     Tirrell's troubles first began after police found the body of Maria Bickford, a prostitute with whom Tirrell had developed a significant relationship, with her throat slit almost to the point of decapitation. Tirrell, who had a wife and a child, was with Bickford in the [Boston, Massachusetts] brothel at the time of the murder.

     The case quickly became sensationalized in the papers: The story went that Tirrell, who treated Bickford as a romantic partner, was jealous that she'd taken another customer. After that customer left Bickford's room, Tirrell took a razor to Bickford's neck and slit her throat and then set multiple fires to destroy the evidence. Perhaps most incriminating of all, Tirrell fled to New Orleans before he was finally arrested.

     The jury bought the sleepwalking defense. and after just two hours of deliberation, found the defendant not guilty.

All That's Interesting,  PBH Network, June 21, 2017

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