A California man plans to use the “Ambien defense” in an upcoming trial in which he is accused of molesting a 10-year-old Casper girl.
Glynn Howard Johnson’s attorney Tom Fleener on Thursday had two requests for Natrona County District Judge Catherine Wilking. He asked to be able to use the defense of automatism — when a defendant claims unconsciousness during the time he or she committed the alleged act. Fleener additionally asked for his client to be able to change his plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of mental illness.
The controversial defense strategy has been employed across the country to varying degrees of success.
A South Carolina man was recently sentenced to prison despite claiming that he didn't remember a shootout with deputies due to Ambien. A California jury, though, found a man not guilty of driving under the influence and resisting arrest after "sleep driving" on the drug.
Johnson in April pleaded not guilty to second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and third-degree sexual abuse of a minor.
Police say the abuse took place in April 2012. The girl would later tell interviewers at Casper’s Children’s Advocacy Project that Johnson rubbed her privates and repeatedly asked her to take off her pants.
Casper police read text messages reportedly sent from Johnson to another man.
When Johnson was asked if he admitted to the actions, he responded “… I will live with that till the day I die,” the affidavit states.
On Aug. 13, Johnson filed a notice of defense of unconsciousness, automatism or traumatic automatism. It specifically claims that he took Ambien and Xanex on the night in question, both according to the prescribed dosage. Johnson says that if the alleged event took place, he has no memory of it.
Fleener said at Thursday’s hearing that Johnson had taken a polygraph test that indicated he had no recollection of committing the alleged crime. Fleener told the Star-Tribune later that Johnson is a retired law enforcement officer with no criminal record.
Johnson participated in the hearing by conference call, and only briefly spoke when asked if he could hear the attorneys’ statements.
Assistant District Attorney Joshua Stensaas argued that the defendant’s notices were not filed in a timely manner and said the defense showed no good cause as to why the court should grant these requests.
The trial has already been rescheduled twice, partially because of Johnson’s health issues.
Wilking granted both of the defendant’s motions, albeit acknowledging that it would create difficulties for the state.
The trial is currently scheduled for Oct. 28.