A sex offender has had his conviction overturned after a judge ordered he be electrically shocked for failing to answer questions properly during his trial.
Star Telegram reports that Fort Worth, Texas, State District Judge George Gallagher ordered a bailiff to use electric shocks on Terry Lee Morris for being “uncooperative” during his Tarrant County trial for sexually harassing a 15-year-old child.
According to the report, Judge Gallagher shocked Morris three times throughout the trial, but his actions have been deemed too extreme, leading to Morris’ conviction being overturned.
In Texas, stun belts can be used as a form of punishment if someone becomes violent or tries to escape the courtroom, however, Judge Gallagher used the shocks to punish Morris because he failed to answer questions in the courtroom correctly.
Morris reportedly received 50,000-volt shocks during the ordeal and was too frightened to return to the court room. It apparently scared him so much he avoided the remainder of his trail.
Morris successfully appealed his conviction, arguing the judge violated his rights, and will now face a new trial. He said he never became violent during the hearing and that such force shouldn’t have been used to control him when he refused to answer a question.
The Texas Eighth Court of Appeals sided with Morris, stating that judges can’t use shock therapy simply because someone doesn’t answer a question.
“While the trial court’s frustration with an obstreperous defendant is understandable, the judge’s disproportionate response is not,” Star Telegram reports Justice Yvonne T. Rodriguez saying. “We do not believe that trial judges can use stun belts to enforce decorum.”
She continued that stun belts are there to maintain safety in the courtroom and not for a judge to use to force someone to obey them.
“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 behaviour he likes,” Justice Rodriguez said.
The court of appeals recognised that Morris believed he was being tortured by the electric shocks, but Judge Gallagher instructed the bailiff to continue shocking him. Judge Gallagher claimed Morris became agitated during the hearing, so much so that he could have easily reached for a courtroom video monitor and throw it at others in the courtroom.