Is it possible to commit murder while asleep? A skeptic, a defense attorney, a prosecutor, a sleep expert and others weigh in on this controversial issue.

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
Michel Bornemann ...
Himself - Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center
Emma Cope ...
Herself - Sleepwalker's Daughter
Graham Cope ...
Himself - Sleepwalker's Husband
Mark Cope ...
Himself - Sleepwalker's Son
Susan Cope ...
Herself - Sleepwalker
Irshaad Ebrahim ...
Himself - Director of London Sleep Centre (as Dr. Irshaad Ebrahim)
Scott Falater ...
Himself - Sleepwalking Killer
Kazuhiko Fukuda ...
Himself - Sleep Researcher
Michael Kimerer ...
Himself - Defense Attorney
...
Himself - Narrator (voice)
Mark Mahowald ...
Himself - Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center (as Dr. Mark Mahowald)
Juan Martinez ...
Himself - Prosecuting Attorney, Scott Falater Trial
Kenneth Parks ...
Himself - Sleepwalking Killer (archive footage)
Mark Pressman ...
Himself - Sleep Medicine Services, Lankenau Hospital (as Dr. Mark Pressman)
Benjamin Radford ...
Himself - Managing Editor of 'Skeptical Inquirer'
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Storyline

Is it possible to commit murder while asleep? Sleepwalking has been used as a defense as early as 1846 when Albert J. Tirrell was acquitted of killing a prostitute named Maria Bickford due to sleepwalking. In modern times, the defense has been used about two dozen times around the world - resulting in at least five acquittals. There's no doubt that sleepwalkers are able to perform complex tasks while not awake, as videotapes of actual sleepwalkers reveal. But murder? A skeptic, a defense attorney, a prosecutor, a sleep expert and others weigh in on this controversial issue. Written by J. Spurlin

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Release Date:

21 November 2005 (USA)  »

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Supposed "sleepwalking murders" are examined in a manner more tantalizing than informative
8 September 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Is it possible to commit murder while asleep? Sleepwalking has been used as a defense as early as 1846 when Albert J. Tirrell was acquitted of killing a prostitute named Maria Bickford due to sleepwalking. In modern times, the defense has been used about two dozen times around the world - resulting in at least five acquittals. There's no doubt that sleepwalkers are able to perform complex tasks while not awake, as videotapes of actual sleepwalkers reveal. But murder? A skeptic, a defense attorney, a prosecutor, a sleep expert and others weigh in on this controversial issue.

The sensational nature of the material makes this episode fascinating, but I felt unsatisfied by the arguments. Based on what we are shown, it seems likely in theory that committing murder while sleepwalking is possible - even though it's impossible to prove or disprove that this or that particular murder occurred during a sleepwalk. The skeptical side - represented in part by Benjamin Radford of "The Skeptical Inquirer" - seems to believe that it's highly unlikely not only in particular cases but in theory as well. But we don't get a full explanation for why. As a result, the presentation is more tantalizing than informative.


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