Some wonder why people have a hard time trusting the “justice” system. Here’s part of it: a Texas Judge repeatedly zaps a defendant with shock device for no good reason:
State District Judge George Gallagher of Tarrant County told a bailiff on three occasions to punish an uncooperative defendant with electric shocks, and now the sex offender’s conviction has been overturned and a new trial ordered.
Stun belts can be strapped around the legs of some defendants and used to deliver thousands of volts of electric shock in the instance a defendant turns violent or attempts to escape the courtroom. However, in the case of Terry Lee Morris, who was convicted in 2014 of charges of soliciting sexual performance from a 15-year-old girl, an appeals court found that Gallagher used electric shocks as punishment after Morris failed to answer the judge’s questions properly.
“While the trial court’s frustration with an obstreperous defendant is understandable, the judge’s disproportionate response is not. We do not believe that trial judges can use stun belts to enforce decorum,” Justice Yvonne T. Rodriguez said of Gallagher’s actions in the court’s opinion.
“A stun belt is a device meant to ensure physical safety; it is not an operant conditioning collar meant to punish a defendant until he obeys a judge’s whim. This Court cannot sit idly by and say nothing when a judge turns a court of law into a Skinner Box, electrocuting a defendant until he provides the judge with behavior he likes,” Rodriguez wrote.
I know some will read this (or have it read to them) and say, “Who cares? He’s a child mo-lester!” That may be true. It may be proven at a subsequent, lawful retrial. The problems here are several. And they illustrate that maybe, just maybe, in some cases the government lacks the moral authority to try child mo-lesters or anyone else.
First, there’s that pesky right to remain absolutely silent. Even in court. Even in defiance of the judge. One does not have to enter a plea. In the absence of a verbal or written plea the universal protocol is for a judge to enter the defendant as “not guilty” and set a jury trial. Why Judge Sparky missed that I can’t explain.
Second, if you do speak to the court, or in order to another party while in court, then they’re supposed to let you speak. They can gently admonish you to stay on subject but a shock device is a but much.
Third … cruel and unusual anyone? And for nothing. Normally, as the article hinted at, a disruptive party will simply be removed from the court room. This man said he was mentally ill and may actually be (even without the electric torture). Judges with more sense sometimes suspend trials and cases pending mental evaluations. Shrinks don’t use shock treatment (much) anymore.
Here, in this case and as the article makes clear, this defendant, annoying or not, was not combative. Protocol, which has to be nationwide – especially in large states like Texas, is to use the shock devices only to protect staff from an actually violent and dangerous suspect.
I think what this fellow was wearing was a shock “ankle bracelet.” Belts usually go around the waist. And they have waist worn shock belts. I’ve seen one used in court. In civilized jurisdictions they usually are required to test demonstrate how effective the belt is – and they are effective. At the judge’s order, the sheriff, the bailiff, or whoever is in charge of security, will test shock an officer, in court and in front of the defendant, the judge, and the public.
Only once did I see this happen, in a murder case with a potentially, allegedly well-trained and dangerous defendant. Maybe he wasn’t that dangerous, volatile to begin with, or maybe it was seeing a 300-pound deputy knocked off his feet by the 50,000 volts, but he never once acted out during his prolonged trial.
As an aside, that guy didn’t make it all the way through the trial. Sensing his actual guilt or maybe the hopelessness of his case, he self-executed one night with a bed sheet. Justice? Maybe. We’ll never know.
But we do know there was little to no justice in Fort Worth.
There is now, and has been for a while, a massive assault on due process, equal protection, liberty, and the rule of law (not of crazed, zappy men) in America. Every little violation runs together with the others to form the monumental mess we now have at hand. It’s changed Anglo-American jurisprudence, governance, and culture for the worse.
The changes may make for expedience in some events. I’m half serious about handling certain criminal or martial acts with E.O. status and prosecution. What, years ago would have been considered insane tyranny, has been rubber stamped by all associated parties. Expedient? Yes, sometimes, sure. Dangerous? You damn-well better believe it.
So, in the real interest of justice (if we still value the word and concept), I bring you warning stories like this.
Now! All is not quite so dark and depressing. Somewhere near the end of the article the Star-Telegram featured a video. Watch it. Human concern and kindness from the most unseemly source. Maybe there is a little hope. Let’s hope so.
These things work, appropriate or not. The Blaze.