Court Throws Out Conviction Of Texas Man Who Was Given Electrical Shocks By A Judge For Failing To “Follow The Rules”

downloadsafety-sign-high-voltageThe Texas Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso has thrown out the conviction of Terry Lee Morris after Judge George Gallagher ordered him to be shocked with a stun belt to induce him to “follow the rules.”  Gallagher’s actions were a disgrace and constitutes at a minimum assault upon a defendant.  He should be removed from the bench for his actions in the 2014 trial.  It is astonishing that he remains on the bench after such abuse of a criminal defendant. I have been a long critic of stun belts in court.

Morris was facing charges of soliciting sexual performance from a 15-year-old girl.  Morris failed to answer questions from Gallagher and the judge proceeded to order the bailiff to activate his stun belt three times to induce his responses.

Gallagher ordered the shocks after becoming impatient over Morris’ failure to answer his question over his plea of guilty or not guilty.  Morris responded “Sir, before I say that, I have the right to make a defense.” Morris raised his filings against Gallagher and his desire for a new judge.  Gallagher describes his objections as “outbursts” and said “Mr. Morris, I am giving you one warning . . . You will not make any additional outbursts like that, because two things will happen. No. 1, I will either remove you from the courtroom or I will use the shock belt on you.”

Morris responds “All right, sir” and Gallagher asks “Now, are you going to follow the rules?”

Morris again states “Sir, I’ve asked you to recuse yourself.”

Gallagher asked again: “Are you going to follow the rules?”

“I have a lawsuit pending against you,” responded Morris.

“Hit him,” Gallagher said to the bailiff.

Gallagher asked him again if he was ready to cooperate and Morris told him that he had a history of mental illness.  Gallagher responds by telling Morris: “Hit him again.”  When Morris protests that he is being tortured, Gallagher asked the bailiff, “Would you hit him again?”

What is astonishing is that Morris’s trial defense attorney, Bill Ray, did not object to his treatment.  It is simply breathtaking that a defense lawyer would not object to repeated threats, let alone orders, to electrically shock a client for failing to be responsive.  Ray has stated that he was not sure that Morris was being shocked and described his client as acting “like a loaded cannon ready to go off.”

In the court’s opinion, Justice Yvonne T. Rodriguez wrote:

“Never before have we seen any behavior like this, nor do we hope to ever see such behavior again,. As the circumstances of this case perfectly illustrate, the potential for abuse in the absence of an explicit prohibition on nonsecurity use of stun belts exists and must be deterred. We must speak out against it, lest we allow practices like these to affront the very dignity of the proceedings we seek to protect and lead our courts to drift from justice into barbarism.”

The court noted what should have been obvious to Gallagher that “We do not believe that trial judges can use stun belts to enforce decorum. 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.”

I previously wrote a column criticizing the increasing use of stun belts.  My objections includes a prior similar case:

In June 1998, Long Beach Superior Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani ordered a deputy to shock a defendant, Ronnie Hawkins, after he repeatedly interrupted her. A judicial review board refused to impose disciplinary action on the judge, who continues to try cases in California.

Likewise, Gallagher has been allowed to continue as a judge despite this barbaric conduct.  Gallagher ordered a physical assault on a defendant who was not presenting any risk of violence or threatening anyone in the courtroom.  He had no authority to use a security device to induce better conduct or more complete answers.  If a police officer took such actions in an interrogation, he would have been criminally charged.  Why should a judge be able to avoid such a charge or even removal over such conduct?



54 thoughts on “Court Throws Out Conviction Of Texas Man Who Was Given Electrical Shocks By A Judge For Failing To “Follow The Rules””

  1. This would be a very good test case to see how far the doctrine of judicial immunity will go.
    Generally judicial immunity from civil suit covers anything that the judge does in furtherance of his judicial duties. I have even written an article about how ridiculous judicial immunity goes in protecting judges from otherwise shocking behavior, pun intended:

    I have always posited the scenario where a witness on the stand does something that the judge does not like, and the judge pulls out a gun and shoots him to force compliance with the judicial proceedings.
    Is the judge immune? He did shoot the guy in the course of his judicial administration, right? Presumptively that would make him immune from civil suit for the shooting.
    Of course the counter argument is that a judge does not have the judicial jurisdiction to do something like that, which is one of the few exceptions to judicial immunity.

    Certainly this defendant should, if he hasn’t already, file a civil right lawsuit against this judge, for assault and other related things.
    It will be interesting to see how well judicial immunity will be treated as a defense in that case.

    1. Gary T – the larger question is how is the judge getting a gun into the courthouse when I have to take my belt off?

  2. The same problem cuts across all aspects of society: there is no equal justice. Not for judges. Not for well-connected politicians. And not for government agencies such as the FBI and DOJ.

    You can’t get civil justice, either, unless you have relatively unlimited funds. Who else can afford a court case?

    Judges act unethically, and there are no consequences to them. The defense lawyer might not have been keen on complaining about the judge because, if the judge remains on the bench, he’s going to have to bring more cases before a thoroughly pissed judge.

  3. For the ignoranti, such as Squeeky, even I know that there is no jury at the pleading stage. If the defendant pleads not guilty then eventually a jury is empaneled for a trial. Disclosure: I was once on a panel but wasn’t selected for the jury; maybe my terms are wrong.

    My understanding is that if a defendant does not plead the judge is to enter a not guilty plea for him.

    Shocking is shockingly wrong. An evil long ago disposed of under English common law.

    1. Dipsh*t!

      Read pages 3 and 4 of the Opinion above!

      And then you can apologize for calling me a member of The Ignoranti.

      Haven’t you learned yet to google before you call me wrong on stuff???

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

  4. OK, let’s look at this again. Whether shocking the Defendant is “barbaric” or not, is an OPINION. Some people will say it is, and others will say it is not. The Def’s lawyer didn’t think so at the time, and he was standing right there beside him. No one else in the Courtroom said anything to the Judge.

    This was a jury trial, and there were 12 people already there at the courthouse, who had interrupted their daily routines to come and sit on the jury because the Def had sex with a 15 year old girl. Which to me, at age 15, is no big deal. 15 year old girls have sex all the time. But whatever, the Def was there, and all he had to do was to answer a simple question – – – Guilty or Not Guilty.

    Instead, the Def made the deal all about him, and his goofy lawsuit against the Judge. The Judge would have been perfectly within his rights to find the Def guilty of contempt, and lock him up for 30 days, and nobody would have said a word. Even though the jail conditions are probably barbaric, and the food sucks, and the company there is not the best.

    Now the Def had on a shock belt. For what purpose? To insure that he, and others similarly situated, follow the rules of the court and behave properly. To not engage in fisticuffs or attacks against personnel there. It might be called for “safety”, but isn’t that the same thing in this situation as “following the rules of the Court.”

    Sooo, I don’t think this was barbaric under the circumstances. The Judge has a docket he has to follow, the trial was already scheduled, jurors were already seated, and to give the Def some more time in jail for contempt, would have further disrupted everybody else’s business. Giving the Def some non-lethal incentive to get with the program seems not barbaric at all, to me.

    Then, did the Def screanm out in pain, or are there any “ouch! es” in the transcript? Any, “Oh My God, that hurts, what agony!” comments from the Def. Nope, he seems pretty calm, cool, and collected under the allegedly “barbaric treatment. Read the transcript.

    But like always, people like to take the side of the criminals, and not wish to inconvenience them, or cause them any pain, even though they get sent to prison all the time, and most prisons are Hell Holes, where they will suffer all manners of physical pain, rapes, indignities, and inhumanities.And, where DOC officers will whomp them with billy clubs for not following the rules.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. You are right. There are courtroom rules. The judge broke them. The appeal court disagrees with you.

      1. True. But I think they are wrong. That is my OPINION, for whatever it is worth. Again, note what the Def’s own lawyer said, above:

        Ray [the Def’s lawyer] []described his client as acting “like a loaded cannon ready to go off.”

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

        1. Sqeeky, I agree and like 99% of your posts that I read, so don’t interpret that I’m throwing you out with the bathwater just because I disagree with 1%.

          In this case, I think the judge should be disbarred, even punished, as example for all authorities. The defendant did not actually fly off the handle, so the judge broke the rules.

          The judge is also addicted to power, arrogantly wielding it from the bench like an insane person who has no concept of what the h*ll he’s doing.

          Remember the sexual-assaulted girl’s father who tried to rush and attack Dr Nasser in a courtroom? That judge displayed remarkable constraint, I thought. She should be an example for all people who hold power and authority, but obviously isn’t.

          Too many people of authority are mentally sick. These are the same people, when without authority, exert what little power they have left by, for example, targeting women and raping them.

          1. First, I don’t get mad at people who disagree with me. There’s no two people in the world who agree 100% with anybody else. Sooo, please don’t ever think I would expect that from someone. I am a lot more even-tempered than I sometimes appear.

            As far as this judge, I do not know if he is one of the ego freaks on the bench, or not. There are some. I just think it was more reasonable to juice the Def a few times than let him passively aggressively control the courtroom. There does not seem to be any lasting harm to him.

            I will be interested to see how his new trial proceeds.

            Squeeky Fromm
            Girl Reporter

            1. I don’t think a new judge will be shocking him, throttling any propensity to dish out punishment without due process, fearing retribution from higher-ups that have more power than s/he has.

              Using your argument, the father who rushed Nasser should have been shocked. He actually broke a courtroom rule, whereas this defendant did not. Did you garner ire for the father, who was just as innocent as this defendant still remains.

    2. Pesky, this “Constitution” thingy. Especially when it protects one of “those” people.

      this is to squeeKKK

    3. Usually I agree with you, but here you are incredibly wrong.
      A shock belt is conform a detainee’s violent behavior, not to enforce behavior from him.

      It is a small step from this to shocking the defendant into pleading guilty.

      1. No, I think that would be a big step. It really isn’t asking to much for him to have said either Guilty, or Not Guilty. But some people would rather put on a show. I don’t think most people understand the pre-existing amount of violence and barbarism in the criminal justice system. For example, this from England, who is nicer to their criminals than we are:

        Have you ever been in jail, or visited someone in jail or prison??? There are not nice places, and getting shocked a few times is nothing compared to what life is in those places.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

  5. What is the matter with some of you people? The man was still a defendant, not a criminal. You obviously have an addiction to your biases, the same as you have an addiction to whatever has frozen your no-life in time.

  6. In the future, they should put another stun belt on the defendant’s counsel and they should both receive the shock. Maybe that way his worthless lawyer will wake up and take an interest!

  7. I would have used the ole cattle prod on Hillary, during her questioning–shocking her until she finally sat still, in her seat, stopped rolling her eyes, mugging for the camera, making faces and answered the questions posed in a true, honest, accurate and complete manner. Yeah, Gowey may be the Senate’s closest thing to a human cattle prod, but actual some jolts of juice, in real time, every time the b#!ch lied, under oath, would’ve been productive, if not humorous and delicious.

  8. Shocking a defendant for asking the judge to recuse himself is over the top. He probably has a solid civil suit against the judge.

  9. It’s Texas, he will run for higher office if removed. Or it’s Texas, he will not be removed. Either way it’s Texas.

      1. Autumn – Texas was another country, the Republic of Texas. It is one of two states whose Constitution allows it to secede if it wants.

          1. Autumn – I am not 100% sure, since it has been a long time since I taught civics, however, I vaguely remember the other is Vermont.

            1. Gary T – I know it is one of those teeny states that are smaller than the county I live in. 😉

  10. This particular use of the stun belt was medieval but I have no problem with it being in courtrooms. I’ve been in courtrooms where all Hell breaks loose and the stun belt would have avoided all that.

  11. Amazing, in this country of laws, that so many politicians, judges, police, etc continually place themselves above and outside of the law and are permitted to, defended for, and even sometimes, as seen here by our closet racist, revered. Or she could simply off her meds.

    1. Hey Isaac,…
      – Wanna hear about something even more outrageous?
      “Canadian judge who wore Trump hat in court will remain on the bench”.😄😂
      -from The New York Times, Sept. 7, 2017

      1. Read the article today in the NYT where doctors in Quebec are refusing pay raises and insisting that the money be used to better the working conditions of nurses. O Canada, that crazy country.

  12. Well, I support the judge! The stupid SOB defendant wouldn’t answer the questions and it sounds like the Judge simply had enough of his bullsh*t. Here is a picture of the POS pedophile:

    Courts have to run, and if some idiot wants to stand there and drag out something as simple as Guilty – Not Guilty, then screw them.

    The pathetic, impotent, limp response of many here to shocking the stupid SOB is not surprising. What is it with people feeling sorry for the darn criminals??? We can barely execute them because of worrying whether or not we will hurt their feelings.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. What is it with people feeling sorry for the darn criminals???

      A shock belt? Why not thumb screws, water-boarding or the rack? What in the world was the court’s options before the shock belt was invented?

      It’s not about feeling sorry for anyone accused of committing a crime. And certainly not for what this individual is accused of doing. What or rather who I feel sorry for is the next individual accused of a crime that is innocent and treated like this in court. That next person could be you or me. We should expect when we enter a courtroom to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. While the court should be secure from my physical behavior, defendants should be secure from the court’s physical behavior.

      1. This is the real, authentic deal. An explication to the mouth-breathers and droolers of the truism that “when you start taking away another person’s rights, yours are next.”

        this is to “speaking the truth” olly

        1. Marky Mark Mark – “real, authentic” is redundant. Some state let you pass the bar? How low are the standards there?

            1. Marky Mark Mark – I don’t hate you, I just don’t like you. Hating people takes energy and I am not going to expend that energy on you. However, I do have the time to follow you around and correct your grammar and logic.

    2. Funny, how most, on the other thread, seemed to find nothing amiss with three crackheads, at a nursery, drugging kids–without the permission or consent of the parents, by plying them with supplement-laced candy, in order to induce compliance and sleepiness–but shock a suspected sexual predator, into compliance, requiring that he simply comply with the rules of the court and respect the process, is off the charts. He wasn’t being shocked to confess. He wasn’t being shocked to give false information. He was being shocked to simply comply with the court’s rules, which he was defiant in ignoring. Moral of the story, kids–no big deal to provide children, in your daycare, with drug-laced candy, without anyone’s knowledge or consent. . .not okay to shock a defendant into complying with the basic protocol demanded of those in a court of law.

  13. Reminds me of a “Cheers” episode when Cliff Claven goes to a quack therapist, trying to modify his behavior.
    The therapist tries aversion therapy with a shock device worn by Cliff.
    Cliff and the therapist go to the bar to try it out, with the therapist activating the shock device every time Cliff starts to bore people with his “knowledge”, brag, etc.
    Very funny episode. Probably on youtube, or somewhere online

  14. Certainly shocking defendants in the cases described above seems totally wrong.

    Why did the CIA get clean away with intentionally water boarding prisoners? Not one was charged and/or convicted. AFAIK, even today the President can still legally order water boarding. What about the criminally corrupt licensed psychiatrists who Bush’s admin (likely Cheney’s gang) successfully convinced to medically authorize water boarding? None were charged nor lost their license.

    Did Turley express similar displeasure over the above acts? I hope so.

  15. The only reasonable uses of a shock belt in a courtroom setting are when other lesser means of control failed or are not available and either the defendant will cause harm to himself or others, or if the defendant attempts escape.

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