Dozing lawyer causes mistrial

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A businessman earlier convicted of executing a major mortgage fraud scheme in the US has been granted a new trial because of his lawyer dozing off in court.

US District Judge Donetta Ambrose ruled on Monday that James Nassida’s Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel was violated because his lawyer fell asleep numerous times during the trial, a report from Courthouse News said.

Stanton Levenson, Nassida’s lawyer, admitted falling asleep in court but said this was due to taking cold medicine. He joined Nassida’s mistrial request in April, but Ambrose elected to see what verdict the jury reached.

When the jury returned a guilty verdict, Ambrose asked the jurors under oath about Levenson’s naps. Everyone on the jury panel admitted to seeing the lawyer sleeping or discussing it with each other.

According to the American Bar Association Journal, the jurors differed on the duration and number of times Levenson slept, with some saying the lawyer dozed off for about 30 seconds and others saying the naps lasted a few minutes. A juror said that the lawyer napped four or five times, while others echoed Levenson’s claim that he only dozed off a couple of times.

Nassida said during a post-trial hearing in April that he caught his lawyer sleeping a couple times a day, which means he slept about 20 times during the trial. The Pennsylvania businessman, who is accused of inflating client income and assets to get better commissions from larger mortgage loans granted by various lenders, said he had to nudge the lawyer every time he saw him sleeping.

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