Judge who berated sick inmate asking for medical help days before she died has resigned

A Broward County, FL Circuit Court judge will not resume her duties in the courthouse after a fraught incident involving a sick inmate who died shortly thereafter.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Judge Merrilee Ehrlich sharply rebuked Sandra Faye Twiggs, 59, when the inmate requested breathing treatment during an April 14 remote video hearing.

Twiggs was released without bond and died at home in her sleep three days later.

Broward Chief Administrative Judge Jack Tuter confirmed to the Sun Sentinel Saturday that the judge, who was approaching retirement but has since resigned in response to criticism for her handling of the situation, would indeed not be resuming her position on the bench.

“In light of recent events we have decided Judge Ehrlich will be told not to return to the courthouse as her retirement is effective June 30,” he said.

Courtroom video shows Twiggs, seated in her wheelchair and coughing, clearly address her need for medical help.

When asked if she needs water, Twiggs says, “Yes, and my breathing treatment.”

“Ma’am, I am not here to talk to you about your breathing treatment!” Judge Ehrlich replies.

The judge continued to be dismissive toward Twiggs throughout their exchange, saying, “Ma’am, don’t even say yes. Just listen,” and “You have to arrange for someone to carry you if you cannot get there yourself” regarding future court check-ins.

Twiggs was arrested for a domestic dispute with her adult daughter, which family members told news cameras was a misunderstanding, noting that the mother had no criminal record. They also elaborated on Twiggs’ fragile medical state—she suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.

Family members believe the judge’s harsh conduct contributed to Twiggs’ death.

“She tried to tell us how they treated her, but she had anxiety, and every time she tried to talk about it, she couldn’t breathe,” her goddaughter Carolyn Porter told the Sun Sentinel.

Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein reportedly found the courtroom video online, which prompted him to write a letter Friday bringing the incident to Judge Tuter’s attention.

“Ehrlich demonstrated aggressive and tyrannical behavior and revealed her lack of emotional fitness to sit on the bench,” Finkelstein wrote in the letter. 

“I am saddened and disappointed in the way Judge Ehrlich behaved on the video,” Judge Tuter said in a statement to the Sun Sentinel.

“Her behavior cannot be condoned.”


[Featured Image: Broward County Circuit Court video screengrab]