Conviction overturned for man electrified by Texas judge
7 March 2018
A Texas appeals court has overturned a man’s conviction after finding a judge had inappropriately electrified him in court, US media report.
Terry Lee Morris was convicted of soliciting sexual performance from a child and was sentenced to 60 years.
Judge George Gallagher ordered the bailiff to activate a stun belt sending 50,000 volts through Morris when he allegedly refused to answer questions.
The higher court found that stun belts cannot be used as punishment in court.
Mr Morris appealed his 2014 conviction alleging that his constitutional rights were violated when the judge used the belt as punishment for not answering questions properly.
The belts – used by courtrooms such as the one Tarrant County in Texas – are affixed around the legs or midsection of a suspect in court and are used to deliver a shock to the person should they become violent.
Mr Morris said he was too scared to return to court out of more electrical shocks, the Texas Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso heard.
The appeals court ruled on 28 February that Mr Morris’ shocks and removal from the court was a violation of his constitutional right to be present and confront witnesses during his trial. The decision was first reported by the Texas Lawyer news website on Tuesday.
He has now been ordered to stand for a new trial.
During the case in which Mr Morris was convicted of soliciting sexual acts from a 15-year-old girl, Judge Gallagher asked him to enter his plea of “guilty or not guilty”.
When Mr Morris responded by saying he had a lawsuit against Judge Gallagher and his defence lawyer, the judge warned him that he would shock him if he did not “follow the rules”, the Washington Post newspaper reported, citing court transcripts.