An appeals court has ordered a new trial for a convicted sex offender after a judge in Texas ordered a bailiff to shock him three times with a 50,000-volt belt for being uncooperative in court.
The Texas Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso ordered the new trial for Terry Lee Morris in a ruling issued late last month, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
“While the trial court’s frustration with an obstreperous defendant is understandable, the judge’s disproportionate response is not,” Justice Yvonne Rodriguez wrote. “We do not believe that trial judges can use stun belts to enforce decorum.”
Rodriguez said a stun belt — typically used to deliver thousands of volts of electric current to violent defendants or those who try to escape a courtroom — is “meant to ensure physical safety” rather than to serve as a “conditioning collar” to punish defendants who disobey a judge’s request.
“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’s opinion continued.