I have long been a critic of the use of shock belts, particularly in courtrooms. Those concerns were magnified this week when Judge Jack Skeen or his deputies shocked criminal defendant James Calvert for failing to stand while addressing the court. Calvert had a long history of disrupting the court proceeding.
There is no question that Calvert was a handful in representing himself. However, to use these belts for behavior modification or punishment is deeply disturbing. He can be denied the right to represent himself. But shocked?
Calvert reportedly screamed for five minutes and Judge Jack Skeen ordered public defenders who had been monitoring the case to take over representation. He simply stated “I should have done this a lot sooner. I don’t have to take it. You’re out.” Well, I can understand the decision but not the means. He can be denied his right to self-representation if he refuses to comply with the rules. Yet, to hit him with a high voltage for showing disrespect, it raises serious question of judicial temperament, judgment, and proportionality.
Despite the prosecutors agreeing to suppress evidence of a search of Calvert’s mother’s home, Calvert tried to question a detective about the search. Calvert explained that “I just want the jury to know the truth.” Skeen responded with “What you can’t handle is the truth.”
Perhaps. That and high voltage shocks.