A Texas man convicted of soliciting a girl for sex was granted a new trial after the Texas Eighth Court of Appeals decided a judge was too “barbaric” while trying to silence the defendant during his 2014 trial.
The Washington Post reports that it’s not uncommon for suspects in Tarrant County to wear stun belt around their legs while in court, in the event they become violent and pose a physical threat to others or themselves. Terry Lee Morris, 54, was wearing a stun belt while on trial in a Fort Worth courtroom, accused of soliciting his girlfriend’s 15-year-old daughter for sex, when Judge George Gallagher ordered a bailiff to shock him three times.
Gallagher said Morris was being too unruly in the courtroom and continue to ramble and make outbursts. Yet, Judge Yvonne T. Rodriguez, who presided over Morris’ appeals case, said that judges aren’t allowed to shock suspects for being loud or unruly.
“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. A stun belt is a device meant to ensure physical safety; it is not an collar meant to punish a defendant until he obeys a judge’s whim.”
Morris indicated that after getting the “shock treatment,” he was too afraid to go back into the courtroom. In turn, his Sixth Amendment right was violated, according to the Texas Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso.
Each time the bailiff stunned Morris, he sent a 50,000-volt shock through his body, which immobilized him for around eight seconds each time. The painful shocks can also cause the recipient to involuntary defecate and/or urinate on themselves, as well as heighten fear and anxiety.
“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 added.
The stun gun shocks apparently started after Morris refused to enter a plea at Gallagher’s request. Morris, who wants his defense attorney, Bill Ray, recused, said he had the right to make a defense for himself. Gallagher gave him a stern warning after Morris continued to talk, stating that the “outbursts” would not be tolerated.
“Mr. Morris, I am giving you one warning,” Gallagher said. “You will not make any additional outbursts like that, because two things will happen. No. 1, I will either remove you from the courtroom or I will use the shock belt on you.”
Gallagher: “Now, are you going to follow the rules?”
Morris: “Sir, I’ve asked you to recuse yourself.”
Gallagher: “Are you going to follow the rules?”
Morris:“I have a lawsuit pending against you.”
Gallagher (to the bailiff): “Hit him.”
Apparently, Morris continued to disrupt the courtroom, resulting in the judge ordering additional stun gun “hits.” Morris is now suing his Ray, who reportedly didn’t have any issues with his client being shocked. Ray allegedly said that Morris was “like a loaded cannon ready to go off.” Ray later said he didn’t think Morris was really getting shocked by the bailiff.
Morris also has a pending lawsuit against Gallagher.
While rambling to the judge, Morris never gave an explanation as to why he wanted the judge recused. This was his second conviction for child-related crimes. In 1991, he was convicted on two counts of causing bodily harm to a child, according to the Texas Tribune.
Morris was granted a new trial, but it’s still unclear when it’s scheduled to begin. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Judge Gallagher via AP/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Rodger Mallison, Pool, and Terry Morris/Police Handout]