March 9, 2018

Texas Courts of Appeals

Morris v. State

No. 08-1-00153-CR          2/28/18


May a judge order a defendant to be electrocuted with a stun belt for reasons other than security purposes?


No. Electrocuting a defendant for refusing to cooperate with the judge’s questions and subsequently removing him from the court during the trial violates the defendant’s right to a fair trial under the Fifth Amendment and the right to be present at trial under the Sixth amendment. “This case represents an extreme, idiosyncratic fact pattern. 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. 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.” Read opinion.


The Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Texas is holding its annual Animal Law Institute conference on Friday, April 27 in Austin. The conference is on animal cruelty and topics include the link between domestic violence and animal abuse, Texas animal cruelty laws 101, preparing and prosecuting animal cruelty cases, animal hoarding, dog fighting, ag gag laws, passing animal cruelty laws in Texas, and ethics. More information available here.