Judge Orders Electric Shocks, Defendant Gets New Trial

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A Texas appeals court ordered a new trial for a convicted sex offender after a Fort Worth  judge instructed his bailiff to administer an electric shock to the defendant three separate times with a stun belt for failing to follow courtroom decorum, reports Texas Lawyer. The court said that stun belts, which deliver a 50,000 volt punch, may not be used by Texas judges to enforce proper courtroom behavior or when a defendant refuses to answer questions. Defendant Terry Lee Morris was convicted of soliciting the sexual performance of a child and was sentenced to 60 years in prison. Morris argued that Judge George Gallagher violated his constitutional rights by repeatedly shocking him for failing to answer questions absent any valid security concerns.

Gallagher said he was concerned by Morris’ agitation and that his demeanor escalated as he refused to ask questions. Gallagher was concerned that Morris had been close enough to pull a 200-pound courtroom video monitor off the wall, potentially falling on the counsel tables and injuring two prosecutors and a defense attorney. El Paso’s Eighth Court of Appeals determined that Gallagher had shocked Morris for non-security related reasons.  “Never before have we seen behavior like this, nor do we hope to ever see such behavior again,” wrote Justice Yvonne Rodriguez.

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