In 1999, Rosalind D. Cartwright, a renowned sleep researcher, testified for the defense in the murder trial of a man who arose from his bed early one night, gathered up tools to fix his pool’s filter pump, stabbed his beloved wife to death, rolled her into the pool and went back to bed. When he was awakened by the police, he said he had no memory of his actions.
His lawyers argued that the man, who had no motive to kill his wife, had been sleepwalking and was therefore in an unconscious state and not responsible for his behavior. Dr. Cartwright, who had successfully served as a witness for the defense in a similar case a decade earlier (working pro bono in both trials), agreed.
The jury did not, and the man was sentenced to life in prison. As Dr. Cartwright was leaving the courtroom, however, a bailiff asked for her business card. Abashedly, he told her, “I beat people up in my sleep.”
Nicknamed the Queen of Dreams by her peers, Dr. Cartwright studied the role of dreaming in divorce-induced depression, worked with sleep apnea patients and their frustrated spouses, and helped open one of the first sleep disorder clinics.
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