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.