BRAIN MATTERS: The curious case of Ken Parks

Team Udayavani, May 21, 2018, 6:59 PM IST

In the article ‘The curious case of Charles Whitman’ we saw how a brain tumour led him to commit crimes. Unfortunately, he was not alive to face the trail in the court of law. But, have you heard of a case, where a man commits murder, surrenders to the police, but the court of law considers him to be innocent and acquits him as he had committed the murder while he was ‘Sleepwalking’?

Welcome to ‘The curious case of Ken Parks’. Kenneth James Parks, a 23-year-old man from Toronto with a wife and a five-month-old daughter, was suffering from severe insomnia and anxiety owing to unemployment and gambling debts. Ken Parks was working for Revere Electric but was dismissed from service when it was found that he had stolen $32,000 from the company funds for placing bets on a horse race.

Ken was in good terms with his in-laws and had planned on meeting them to discuss his financial issues and his personal life. On the early morning of May 24th, 1987, he fell asleep while watching TV and at some point of time, he got up drove 23 km to his in-law’s house, proceeded to the bedroom and choked his father-in-law unconscious, stabbed his mother in law repeatedly with a kitchen knife to death. 

After all this, he drove to the nearest police station asking for help, saying “I think I have killed some people…. I’ve just killed my mother- and father-in-law. I stabbed them to death. It’s all my fault”. He had no memory of what had happened.

When his court trial began, sleep expert Roger Broughton and his team were engaged to study his case. After careful examination of the case, Roger Broughton and team could uncover no other justification of the crime than sleepwalking. The electroencephalography (EEG) scans showed that Kenneth was suffering from acute parasomnia (a disorder characterized by the abnormal or unusual behaviour of the nervous system during sleep). The court considering the fact that there is no way to fake one’s own EEG results, with no criminal motive and serious criminal background, pronounced the judgement holding Ken not guilty of murder. The judge acquitted Kenneth James from all the charges.

This case may leave you wondering whether our conscious mind has any control over us. Some medical experts believe that our conscious mind has no control over what we do at all.

Prakash Prabhu
[ Mr.Prakash Prabhu works for The Manipal Group as a Senior HR Manager with over 15 years of corporate experience. He has been the lead writer and contributor to CHIRP magazine. (An intra-Manipal group monthly employee magazine) An avid reader who devours one book after another, Mr.Prabhu is also a certified handwriting analyst.]

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