Justice Never Sleeps: Courtroom Yawn Earns Man 6 Months In Jail

By Brian Kumnick on August 10, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Headed to court in Will County, Illinois? For your own sake, get a good night's sleep beforehand, or at least a power nap in the hallway beforehand. Courtroom sleepiness is likely to land you in the lockup.

That's what happened to Clifton Williams recently, anyway, according to a Chicago Tribune story. Circuit Judge Daniel Rozak didn't take kindly to Williams' yawning during a July 23 sentencing for Williams' cousin, and slapped him with a charge of criminal contempt of court.

To be sure, at least some courtroom spectators were in agreement that Williams' yawn was no simple, involuntary action, but rather was timed and exaggerated so as to disrupt the sentencing proceeding, however briefly.

As a reward for his performance, Williams will actually be facing more jail time than his cousin the drug defendant, who got two years' probation for his offense. Williams received six months in jail, which, according to the Tribune story, is the max he could receive without actually going to a jury trial. He's expected to serve at least three weeks of that sentence.
In related news, some are now asking whether Judge Rozak may have overreacted. A judge with a reputation for running an old-school, strict courtroom, Rozak appears to hand out a disproportionately large share of contempt orders -- four out of the five brought in Will County this year, for example, when he is just one of 30 judges on the court.

Just don't ask for critical comment from the defense attorneys who appear before him. Clearly fearful of his wrath, the defenders quoted by the Tribune kissed up by describing him as "terrific" and "tough but fair." Maybe, if you consider 6 months in jail for a little slice of courtroom theater to be "fair," but that's not the f-word that most of us would probably use to describe it.

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