In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that a Missouri man should not have been shackled during the penalty phase of his trial, when a jury was deciding whether he would get the death penalty. Justice Stephen Breyer quoted a Florida ruling that said shackles “can be a ‘thumb (on) death’s side of the scale'” for a jury ruling in a capital case. Many courts envision stun belts as the solution, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The belt is mostly or fully hidden, yet can incapacitate a person for up to eight seconds with the push of a button.
In St. Louis, stun belts will be tested in jury trials with defendants perceived to be a danger or a flight risk. Critics say stun belts can misfire or be misused to torture inmates or amuse deputies. Denise Lieberman of the American Civil Liberties Union said the dangers of stun belts “are often underestimated, and they’re perceived to be a more minimal use of force than they actually are.” She said that while stun guns and stun belts are perceived as a lesser use of force than a weapon, “the shocks can be fairly significant.”