Barbaric Texas judge under fire for torturing defendant with stun gun during trial

Gavel
(Courtesy of Fotolia)

A Texas judge is accused of crossing the line after reports surfaced that he ordered a stun gun to be used on a defendant in his court room.

And now a man who was reportedly on trial for soliciting a 15-year-old for sex walks free because State District Judge George Gallagher violated his rights for refusing to answer questions in court.

According to The Washington Post, in Tarrant County, Texas, defendant Terry Lee Morris was strapped with an ankle bracelet, which delivers a shock in the event that an innate tries to escape or has a violent outburst. But State District Judge George Gallagher stunned Morris three times, sending a series of searing electric volts through his body to punish Morris for refusing to answer the judge’s question in his 2016 trial.

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Morris was so traumatized by the barbaric punishment that he refused to come back to court and face the judge for the remainder of his trial, fearing the judge would shock him again with the stun gun.

Violating Morris’ rights got the whole case thrown out and Morris’ conviction was overturned on the grounds that the shocks ordered by Judge Gallagher, and Morris’s subsequent removal from the courtroom, violated his constitutional rights.

Since Morris said he was too scared to return to the courtroom, the court held that “the shocks effectively barred him from attending his own trial, in violation of the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment,” which guarantees a defendant’s right to be present and confront witnesses during a trial.  

What led to the use of the stun gun

Judge Gallagher reportedly got frustrated with Morris after he refused to answer the judges questions: Gallagher asked Morris how he would plead: guilty or not guilty?

“Sir, before I say that, I have the right to make a defense,” Morris responded.

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Morris wanted the judge recused from the case and had filed a federal lawsuit against his defense attorney and against Gallagher. Morris continued talking, Gallagher warned him to stop making “outbursts.”

“Mr. Morris, I am giving you one warning,” Gallagher said outside the presence of the jury, according to the appeals court. “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.”

“All right, sir,” Morris said.

The judge continued: “Now, are you going to follow the rules?”

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

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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.

The bailiff pressed the button and shocked Morris, and then Gallagher asked him again whether he was going to behave. Morris then told Gallagher he had a history of mental illness.

“Hit him again,” the judge ordered.

Morris protested that he was being “tortured” just for seeking the recusal.

Gallagher asked the bailiff, “Would you hit him again?”

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Judges are prohibited from shocking defendants in their courtrooms just because they won’t answer questions, the court said, or because they fail to follow the court’s rules of decorum.

“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,” Justice Yvonne T. Rodriguez said of Gallagher’s actions in the court’s opinion.