When A Defendant Is Mistreated In Court, Who Polices The Judges?

A Tarrant County district judge ordered stun belts to be attached to an uncooperative defendant in his courtroom. That defendant has now been granted a new trial. But what should happen to the judge?

By Michael MarksMarch 9, 2018 1:51 pm,

In a Tarrant County courtroom in 2014, Terry Lee Morris stood before State District Judge George Gallagher. Morris was on trial for soliciting sex from a minor, a charge he was eventually convicted of. When he wouldn’t respond to Judge Gallagher’s questions, the judge instructed the bailiff to attach stun belts to Morris’ legs. But as Morris failed to answer questions to Judge Gallagher’s satisfaction, the judge instructed the bailiff to send 50,000 volts to him. He did that three times.

Morris appealed his conviction and asked for a new trial based on his treatment. An appeals court in El Paso threw out the conviction and now Morris is waiting for his new trial. And the judge?  What happens to him? Who polices the judges?

Renee Knake, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center and an expert on legal ethics says Judge Gallagher’s action were surprising, since the restraints he ordered used on Morris were not used as a security measure.

“That gets to fundamental 6th Amendment rights, about fairness of a trial, and the ability of an individual to choose whether or not to testify, and how they do so,” Knake says.

In Texas, the agency that reviews accusations of judicial misbehavior is the Commission on Judicial Conduct. Knake says she doesn’t know whether or not the Gallagher case has been referred to the commission.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.