Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take but as for me; give me liberty or give me death!”     Patrick Henry

August 12, 2009

Man Receives 6 Months in Jail…for Yawning?

by Stephen Littau

Just when you think the criminal justice system couldn’t be any wackier, a spectator inside a county courthouse was sentenced to 6 months in jail for yawning. No shit.

Williams, 33, attended his cousin’s July hearing at Will County Courthouse in Joliet. His cousin, Jason Mayfield, pled guilty to a felony drug charge. As the judge sentenced Mayfield to two years probation, Williams let out a yawn, an involuntary faux pas in such a formal setting.

Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak thought the yawn was criminal and sentenced Williams to six months in jail, the maximum penalty for contempt of court without a jury trial. Rozak’s order said that Williams “raised his hands while at the same time making a loud yawning sound,” causing a disrespectful interruption in court.

I guess it never occurred to me just how much power a judge can have and did not realize that the right of trial by jury as guaranteed by the 6th Amendment evaporates once an individual enters the courtroom. It also seems to me that Williams’ 8th Amendment protection from “cruel and unusual punishment” has been violated as being sentenced to 6 months in jail seem both cruel and unusual to me.

But what do I know? I read the Constitution’s plain language rather than more than 200 plus years of case law which have obscured the meaning of what should be a very simple concept.

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5 Comments

  1. I don’t understand how a judge can do that.

    Comment by Joy Reed — August 12, 2009 @ 11:53 am
  2. They have been given that power. This judge seems to be one of the more extreme, but any time you enter a courtroom, you face the risk of going to jail. Contempt of court is a rather vague charge and judges are given very wide latitude in applying it. Any time I’ve been in a courtroom, as a participant or spectator, I have been uncomfortably aware of that fact.

    Comment by John222 — August 12, 2009 @ 12:35 pm
  3. And there’s no appeal?

    Comment by Akston — August 12, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
  4. You can appeal. But the appeal is decided by other judges who have reason to protect the prerogatives of their profession.

    And there is some need for keeping order in the courtroom. It’s just that this is out of all proportion.

    Way out of proportion.

    Really. The mind simply boggles.

    Comment by EscapedWestofTheBigMuddy — August 12, 2009 @ 5:04 pm
  5. Just when you thought things couldn’t get anymore ridiculous…

    Comment by Chrystal K. — August 13, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

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