Friday, December 14, 2018

Podcast excerpt: TX Court of Criminal Appeals hears arguments about when it's okay to electrocute pro se defendants

James Calvert is a mentally ill capital murder defendant who allegedly murdered his ex-wife on Halloween night in 2012. He represented himself at trial in Smith County, Texas and was sentenced to the death penalty. Among other remarkable elements of the case, Mr. Calvert was shocked with a 50,000 volt stun belt during the trial for refusing to obey the court's demands. In addition, Judge Jack Skeen, who presided over the trial, repeatedly made negative comments about Mr. Calvert and the evidence he presented. Many observers believed Calvert should never have been allowed to represent himself in the first place.

In September, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals heard oral arguments in Calvert's case, delivering perhaps the clearest window yet into the issues that may decide his fate. On the December 2018 episode of the Reasonably Suspicious podcast, my co-host, Texas Defender Service Executive Director Mandy Marzullo, and I reviewed highlights from oral arguments and discussed key issues in the case. Because of high levels of interest in the case, particularly in Grits' hometown, I've excerpted the podcast segment dealing with the case; listen to it here:

For a transcript of of the segment, go here.

And by the way, if, like me, the story about shocking a defendant with a 50,000 volt stun belt left you wondering, "What kind of company manufactures such a torture device, and how is there a market for such a thing?," here's a two-decade old Washington Post story offering some background, using a Texas case study, of course.


Anonymous said...

Should we be electrocuting people during oral arguments?

Anonymous said...

Should we be electrocuting people at all?

Anonymous said...

We should electrocute the juries when they disagree with the prosecution.

Anonymous said...

That's a shocking thing to say

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