Sleepwalking defense out in biting case retrial — (The Journal News)

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The Journal News

By Lauren Pack, Staff Writer

Thursday, October 25, 2007

BUTLER COUNTY COMMON PLEAS COURT

HAMILTON ­ Sleepwalking will not be a permitted defense the second time around for a West Chester Twp. man accused of using his teeth as a weapon.

Before jury selection began Wednesday in the felonious assault retrial of Cristen Comer, Butler County Assistant Prosecutor David Kash argued that a sleeping disorder could not be presented as evidence without supporting expert testimony.

During the first trial in August, which ended with a hung jury, defense attorney Joseph Spring said Comer suffers from sleepwalking and did not know what he was doing when he bit Chelsea Rose so badly she required stitches. The defense acknowledged that Comer consumed alcohol before the incident and had been taking medication for depression.

Spring presented an article stating sleepwalking was a common sleep disorder. But Butler County Judge Patricia Oney ruled the defense did require an expert opinion, and that sleepwalking would not be mentioned in the three-day trial.

Comer, 30, formerly of Lakeside Drive, and Rose, 24, formerly of Liberty Twp., met at a bar the early morning of July 7. They went to Comer’s home where they continued to drink while talking and watching movies. Rose said she fell asleep.

“I woke up groggy and I couldn’t breathe,” Rose said. “He was on top of me growling like an animal and choking me.” She said she struggled and gouged his eye before Comer bit her. One wound took 25 stitches to close, she said, showing scars to the jury.

“The only controversy to this case is his mental state at the time of the attack,” said Spring, who argued that Comer is not criminally liable because the acts were involuntary.