Man's 30-year prison sentence thrown out because lawyer slept through trial

Nicholas Ragin has already served 10 years of his sentence

A man's 30-year prison sentence for conspiracy and racketeering has been overturned because his lawyer slept on and off throughout his trial.

Nicholas Ragin had served 10 years of his sentence before the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out his 2006 conviction due to the actions of his lawyer, Nikita V Mackey.

A former police officer and North Carolina State Representative, Mackey was found to have frequently slept for at least 30 minutes at a time throughout his client's trial.

Explaining their decision, Appeals Judge Roger Gregory wrote: "We hold that a defendant is deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel when counsel sleeps during a substantial portion of the defendant’s trial.

"Nicholas Ragin’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated not because of specific legal errors or omissions indicating incompetence in counsel’s representation but because Ragin effectively had no legal assistance during a substantial portion of his trial," a statement read. 

One witness testified at the appeals hearing in Richmond, Virginia, that Mackey was asleep "frequently...almost every day morning and evening" for "30 minutes at least".

Peter Adolf, another lawyer present at the original trial, testified that at one point the presiding judge "leaned into his microphone, because we were all sitting there and (Mackey) wasn’t moving and said, ‘Mr. Mackey’ . . . very loudly.

"Mackey then jumped up and sort of looked around and was licking his lips and moving his mouth and looked sort of confused and looked all over the room."

The Independent has contacted Mr Mackey for a comment.

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