'Barbarism': Texas judge used electric shocks to silence man on trial

Thankfully, the conviction was thrown out in the end.

A man who solicited sex from a 15 year old has gone free because his judge behaved so egregiously. Terry Lee Morris’s case was thrown out last week after it came to light that Judge George Gallagher used an electric shock belt on Morris three times. This punishment, intended only for the most violent outbursts, was used on Morris for simply disagreeing. A Maryland police officer tested the belt on himself and described it as “If you had nine-inch nails and you tried to rip my sides out and then you put a heat lamp on me.”

The Texas Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso said they were forced to throw out the guilty verdict and send a message that this kind of power abuse is not tolerated. “We do not believe that trial judges can use stun belts to enforce decorum,” Justice Yvonne T. Rodriguez said in her ruling. The court found that the defendant’s sixth amendment constitutional rights had been violated, as he was too scared to return to court and missed his own trial and sentencing.

Tarrant County, Texas Judge George Gallagher used the powerful shock belt on defendant Morris three times. The first shock came after this exchange.

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

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

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

“Hit him,” Judge Gallagher said to the bailiff.

The two subsequent shocks were given after similar conversation and Morris telling the judge he has a history of mental illness.

Morris’s own defense attorney didn’t even believe his client was actually being shocked at the time, since this type of use is so very rare. The 70,000 volt shocks are only meant to immobilize a person who is an imminent physical threat. The shocks can cause seizures, heart issues and defecation. “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,” wrote Judge Rodriguez.

Judge Gallagher has refused to comment citing judicial ethics, and is not currently being punished. “Never before have we seen any behavior like this, nor do we hope to ever see such behavior again...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.” Rodriguez wrote in her ruling.

By Being Liberal contributor: Sarah Ficca

For more read, "‘Barbarism’: Texas judge ordered electric shocks to silence man on trial. Conviction thrown out." written by Meagan Flynn for Washington Post on March 7, 2018.