Florida Judge Quits After Berating Defendant Who Died

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A Florida woman died three days after a judge delivered a blistering, arm-waving, tongue-lashing to her after she was brought to court in a wheelchair to face misdemeanor charges in a family feud. Judge Merrillee Ehrlich has resigned, reports the Miami Herald. The April 15 courtroom rant was so over the top that Broward County’s elected public defender, Howard Finkelstein, demanded that Ehrlich be banned from the criminal courthouse. “It is not appropriate for anyone to endure that kind of treatment,” said Finkelstein’s assistant, Gordon Weekes. “All that was required was a bit of patience, and a bit of respect to allow this lady to speak, to gather herself and to breathe.” Instead, Sandra Twiggs died, “and never had the opportunity to have her dignity restored,” Weekes said. Twiggs suffered from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She ended up under arrest after squabbling with her 19-year-old daughter.

A friend said that once Twiggs was released from jail and taken home, she was starving, dizzy and borderline breathless. She had trouble getting her medications in the jail. Twiggs was found dead in her bed Wednesday morning. Twiggs had never been in trouble before when the Lauderhill Police Department charged her on April 13 with scratching her daughter during a domestic dispute that began with a disagreement over a fan. In a video of the April 15 court encounter, Ehrlich appears to the left in a split screen, and Twiggs is shown seated in a wheelchair, barely visible above a lectern at a satellite courthouse. When Twiggs tells the judge she needs medical treatment, the judge erupts, “Ma’am, I’m not here to talk to you about your breathing treatments.”

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