Monday, March 05, 2018

His chief weapons are surprise and fear

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, the actors in Monte Python insisted, and Grits must admit I didn't expect Texas judges to begin adopting torturous means to extract the answers they want from defendants before them.

But then, I've never met Judge George Gallagher from the 396th District Court in Tarrant County, whose chief weapons are surprise and fear, fear and surprise. ... Live and learn.

In the category of "things that make you go 'Hmmmmm,'" here's the crux of an opinion out of the El Paso Court of Appeals
Because the trial transcript clearly shows that the trial judge, during a heated exchanged with the defendant outside the presence of the jury, ordered his bailiff to electrocute the defendant three times with a stun belt—not for legitimate security purposes, but solely as a show of the court’s power as the defendant asked the court to stop “torturing” him—we harbor grave doubts as to whether Morris’ trial comported with basic constitutional mandates. As such, we have no choice but to overturn Morris’ conviction and remand for a new trial.
See briefs from the appellant and the State for all the lurid details, and a bevy of self-serving arguments by the Tarrant DA office which the appeals court rejected. 

It remains to be seen whether the prosecution will seek review from the Court of Criminal Appeals, much less what that court might do. Grits could see a tight, 5-4 decision either way, or maybe 6-3 to uphold, just because the facts are so bad. But you never know. And depending on the outcome of the race to replace Judge Elsa Alcala, that projected vote count could change.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing a post on this Grits. When I read it and sent it to you, I was pretty darn sure you'd be appalled. Your blog is read state wide and folks should be aware that their judges can be horrible people and defendants do not have to put up with this crap. However, it also demonstrates just how hard it is to have grounds to appeal your case. If the objection was not laid down in the original trial, you are often shit out of luck. So many judges and lawyers will tell defendants that an issue can be addressed at appeal, that it will be 'easy'. Yeah, nobody gives a crap about you once you are convicted. You are tossed into the corrections systems and forgotten. I've seen it way too many times. This guy was lucky he got a competent attorney.

Oxnard said...

Aren't the actions of the Judge considered criminal? Really, if a judge can torture a defendant to get him to say or admit to anything, what is the purpose of a trial?

James S. said...

What's a "self-serving" argument? Isn't every legal argument "self-serving" in some way?

"This guy was lucky he got a competent attorney." Maybe on appeal (though it's hard to imagine screwing it up). But it's interesting that his trial attorney never objected to the shocking.

Anonymous said...

The people of Rusk and nearby Jacksonville are all buzzing about a recent case of torture that is now being looked at more than a few agencies.

Anonymous said...

The trial attorney was Bill Ray, who has received an enormous number of indigent appointments in Tarrant County in the past.

http://www.jacksonvilleprogress.com/news/death-row-inmate-secret-deal-tainted-case/article_3446422b-45ee-574c-a19f-4bdafbd3db20.html

Ray was also in the news a few years back for his failure to effectively represent a mentally-ill woman facing probation revocation.

https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Secret-testimony-Judge-acted-as-prosecutor-84916907.html

Regrettably, the federal judge who eventually granted the client in question habeas corpus relief sealed the file on that case.

Steven Seys said...

I am not surprised at the actions of the court in this case. This is an extreme example of a common practice. The intimidation of the defendant to "comply" with his or her railroad job into the corrections system is standard operating procedure in Texas courts. It was tried and succeeded on me in 1984 when I was denied my right to give evidence in my own defense. My trial attorney, now a Federal judge, refused to ask any question that would allow my story to be told. In our adversarial system, the attorneys have all the power to control what the jury hears, and in my case they had agreed to get only such evidence before the jury that would make them angry and point their anger at me. Meanwhile the actual perpetrators continued to slaughter innocent people in their homes at least one every two days. How many of those people would be alive today had the justice system been interested in accuracy and truth instead of securing a rapid conviction from an "uncooperative" defendant?

Susan Hays said...

The Defendant was also lucky the appeal got transferred to El Paso and did not stay in the Fort Worth Court of Appeals. There should be a Judicial Conduct Commission complaint over this. Judges' rulings, no matter how legally incorrect, are not the basis for a JCC complaint, but bias, decorum, etc. sure can be. Anyone can file a complaint and the initial basis can be a press report, court opinion like this one, etc. You don't have to have first hand knowledge of the bad behavior.

Wise Texan said...

Wait, are you saying nothing happened to Judge George Gallagher for this appalling example of misconduct? Is this really true? This actually happened in a court of law? When I googled this judge, he still appears to be a judge in Tarrant County.

john said...

There was once an organization, mostly out northwest, "Jail For Judges." Lawyers worked together to beat them down and chill the areas.
Today we desperately need "Judges To Guantanamo!!" (which Hussein did Not close)

These godless arrogant incompetent shitholes are like the racist sheriffs of old. THEY "KNOW" THEY ARE ABOVE THE LAW, Because there's been No oversight, for So long.
(I think it was Jefferson who said it's better to have a criminal go free, than one innocent man be sent to jail.)
BUT TODAY WE HAVE THE LAWs IGNORED, EXCEPT PER EXPEDIENCE OF THE ARROGANT COURTS. Cops get overtime by arresting anyone, even if it was bogus. They'll shoot you dead and lie they feared for their lives, or you reached in your waistband. Then they go on paid administrative leave, while the courts & unions cover it up. THE COPS' WAR ON AMERICA is largely caused BY SUCH JUDGES/POLITICIANS.
AND they all need to at least go to Guantanamo. JUDGES ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS, and politicians are absolutely corrupted.

Gadfly said...

This is crazy. I'd seen it being spoofed (for real anger) on Twitter more than once.

Anonymous said...

Also, the defense attorney in this case made 300k+ off appointed cases the majority in front of this judge. Also, said defense attorney is the judge's campaign manager.

Dave from Criminal Injustice said...

To echo a question asked above: does anyone know whether a judicial ethics complaint has been filed against this judge for this incident? If no one knows, do any of you good folks in Texas know how to find out?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"Tarrant County judge used electric shocks to punish sex offender, who is getting a new trial"

Is the headline on yesterday's Star-Telegram article. I can't help but think of that as a grasping minimization of a county judge ordering a defendant electrocuted for not following decorum.

I'm all for punishing sex offenders but if a bailiff, judge, attorney, and a reporter (at least) all saw this go down and thought it was so unremarkable that it took a while new attorney and four years for us to find out. That's a problem.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

FWIW, on Twitter, Mark Bennett said he'd filed a complaint against the judge with the SCJC.

Jonah Kyle said...

There should be a criminal assault charge against the judge. Shock collars are even being phased out in dog training. Tens of thousands of other judicial chambers do not use shock collars (actually, this is the first I've heard of one), and if the conditions are such that extreme protection from the defendant is warranted, then keep him isolated from other personnel other than his lawyer and sufficiently constrained.

George said...

@ 7:00, you damn right that's a problem. I don't know if you're singling out the citizens among us who have been accused, charged, indicted and prosecuted for a crime of a sexual nature as worthy of punishment in particular, or not, in actuality ALL serious crimes should be EQUALLY investigated, charges should be brought and prosecuted and JUST punishment should be administered just as equally. A sex offense, although a terrible crime, is no more terrible than murder, horrific domestic abuse that doesn't have a sexual nature, extreme physical child abuse to name just a few. If you think otherwise then you're truly ignorant and no amount of persuasion will sway your way of thinking because you simply can think for yourself, instead you believe that what is commonly known as being the gospel instead of doing a bit of independent research from knowledgeable sources.

This judge was wrong for what he did, and yes, I feel that this was an act of criminal violence on his part. He should be charged, indicted and prosecuted for this crime and serve time in the very same state prison system that he has sent so many in his tenure. Only then, perhaps, will he truly see the error of his ways.

As for the defense attorney, he is so typical of the shithole attorneys that are a part of the criminal justice system here in Texas. Was he really this judges campaign manager? Wow, if so, only in Texas could this take place. Wait, this probably happens in many other parts of the country where citizens elect but don't hold the ones elected to any oversight. The good ole boy system still lives and thrives among an inherently ignorant electoral base.

jdgalt said...

Remanding the case probably will not change anything for the better, especially if it gets sent back to the same trial judge. What needs to happen is for that judge to be removed from office AND put on trial for unnecessary use of force. The case is a great illustration of the principle that NO ONE should be above the law. Ever.

Make that the standard and give it plenty of teeth, and law enforcement will be forced to remake itself back into something the people will respect.

JC said...

Both the judge and the bailiff should be held on federal charges. Why on earth would a bailiff even consider continued electrocutions at the verbal direction of the judge? Given the moral considerations versus the authority of the judge to uphold decorum, the Bailiff should have told the judge to eff off.