No, Texas Judges Can't Shock Defendants for Not Answering Questions

A sex offender’s conviction is overturned because a Texas judge decided to administer electric shocks to him.


What happened?


The details are too surreal to be made up.


In 2014, Terry Lee Morris, 54, was convicted for soliciting sexual performance from a 15-year-old girl. However, an appeals court says his constitutional rights were violated by Tarrant County District Court Judge George Gallagher, who shocked Morris with a stun belt three times during the trial.


Use of a stun belt in a courtroom is not completely forbidden. Some defendants, who pose a risk of violence or physical disruption or escape, are required to wear stun belts during court appearances, The device is strapped around a defendant’s legs and shocks are administered if the defendant engages in risk behavior.


None of these reasons prompted the judge’s decisions to shock Morris, however.


Why did he shock him?


Morris refused to answer questions.


Let’s look at the story in more detail.


The Strange Journey of Terry Lee Morris


On the first day of the trial, Judge Gallagher asked Morris to enter a plea, but Morris wanted to make a defense first. Gallagher warned Morris that he would be removed or shocked if he didn’t comply.


When Morris continued to ignore the warning, Gallagher ordered the bailiff to shock him. After the first shock, Morris said he had a history of mental disorders when Gallagher asked if he would cooperate with the proceedings. The judge then ordered ta second shock.


After the second shock, Morris said he was being tortured. Judge Gallagher responded to this charge by ordering a third shock. At that point, Morris was taken from the courtroom. A conviction and sentence was handed down without his presence.


According to the ruling by the Texas Court of Appeals, shocks of 50,000 volts can impair a defendant’s cognitive abilities. The court ruled that Morris was shocked for punishment, not as a method of containment, which was a violation of his rights. The Court had no choice but to overturn the conviction.


For anyone who cares about rights and freedoms, this is a great thing. No one should have to be subjected to what is essentially torture – especially when they have not even been proven guilty of the crime they’ve been accused of.


What does this mean for Mr. Morris?


Well, he’s currently serving time in a Huntsville facility for a 1992 conviction for causing a child to experience bodily injury. On top of that, he will be retried for his 2014 charge.


With Morris’s conviction being overturned for improper judicial conduct, a new judge will be assigned for the next proceeding. Morris, however, will still face the actual consequences associated with a charge of soliciting a minor.


What You Can Expect If You Are Charged with Solicitation of a Minor


Online solicitation of a minor is a criminal offense in Texas. By state law, a minor is anyone under the age of 17.


The charge applies to anyone at least 17 years old who uses the internet, email, or text messages to communicate in a sexually explicit manner with a minor or who distributes sexually explicit material to a minor.


It also applies if the defendant solicits a meeting with a minor with the intent to engage in sexual conduct with the minor. The meeting need not occur for a charge to apply.


In most convictions, a third degree felony will apply. Sentencing for a third degree felony is two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.


Solicitation of a Minor

If the minor is under 14 years old or believed to be less than 14 years of age at the time of the offense, a second degree felony will apply in the conviction. Sentencing for a second degree felony is two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.


As you can see, a conviction comes with serious penalties. Among other things, a felony conviction will negatively impact your ability to secure employment, housing, and certain professional licenses. To fight back, you need a knowledgeable Texas criminal attorney. Call today for a free case review.