TARRANT COUNTY, Texas -- A Tarrant County sex offender had his conviction tossed and a new trial ordered after an appeals court found the trial judge improperly used electric shocks against the defendant prior to his 2014 trial.
The Texas Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso ruled that Tarrant County Criminal Court Judge George Gallagher shocked the defendant, Terry Lee Morris, three times "not for legitimate security purposes, but solely as a show of the court's power."
Terry Lee Morris was sentenced by a jury to 60 years in prison for sexual enticement of a child, but never faced the jury or his accuser.
The shocking episodes occurred with the jury not present, before testimony in the two-day criminal case began in the 396th District Court.
Morris was removed from the courtroom and in his appeal stated he did not return to the courtroom over fear for his safety.
The 3-judge panel concluded Morris' 6th amendment right to be present and confront witnesses during a trial.
"The defendant's absence from trial is not a trivial factor in the jury's decision making process," the 42-page opinion reads. "On the contrary, it is palpable and its impact cannot readily be assessed, and as such, we must assume it had some effect."
The stun belt provides a shock of 50,000 to 70,000 volts for 8 seconds and is worn around the leg of defendants in Tarrant County court cases.
The Dallas County Sheriff's Office says use of stun belts in the courtroom there is rare, saying the last use of a shock to a defendant came in 2002 during the trial of Licho Escamilla, who was convicted of killing a police officer.