A pedophile has had his conviction for child sex offenses overturned because the judge ruling over his case ordered that he be repeatedly electrocuted for not answering questions.
Terry Lee Morris, 54, was convicted of soliciting a sex act from a 15-year-old girl and sentenced to 60 years in jail in 2014.
During his trial, a court heard how District Judge George Gallagher had ordered the defendant to be jolted with 50,000 volts from a shock belt on three occasions.
Shock belts, which are used in courtrooms such as the one Tarrant County in Texas where Morris’ trial was being held, are placed on the defendant’s legs. They are only meant to be used the suspect becomes violent during proceedings.
The Texas Eighth Court of Appeals has now ruled that Morris’ constitutional rights were violated after Gallagher ordered him to be electrocuted and then removed from the court because he refused to answer questions.
“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,” appeals court Justice Yvonne Rodriguez said in her ruling, reeports the Star Telegram.
“A stun belt is a device meant to ensure physical safety; it is not an operant conditioning collar meant to punish a defendant until he obeys a judge’s whim. 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."
According to court transcripts, Gallagher asked Morris whether he was pleading guilty or not guilty to the charge of soliciting sexual acts from an under age girl. Morris then said he was going to sue Gallagher and his defense attorney, Bill Ray.
The transcripts states:
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: Hit him.
During the argument, the judge orders the bailiff to electrocute Morris on two further occasions before removing him from the court.
In his written appeal to the courts, Morris lawyers say: “Here, the record clearly shows the judge engaged in a pattern of calculated conduct aimed not at security or even maintaining decorum, but rather at demonstrating his power over the defendant.”
The appeals court has now ordered that Morris stand a new trial. He was previously convicted of sexually assulting a child in 1991.
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