What went down in a Texas courtroom in 2014 was literally shocking enough to result in a man's conviction being overturned late last month. As originally reported by the Texas Lawyer website Tuesday, Terry Lee Morris, who'd been found guilty of sex crimes against a child and given a 60-year prison sentence, will receive a new trial after the 8th Court of Appeals in Texas found Judge George Gallagher ordered his bailiff to administer electric shocks to Morris for not answering questions the way Gallagher wanted, per the BBC. The shocks—which the court's Feb. 28 ruling on Courthouse News Service says were delivered three times "as a show of the court's power"—were administered via a stun belt, a device the BBC and Washington Post report is sometimes used in courtrooms in Texas' Tarrant County if defendants become violent or try to flee.
Per transcripts cited by the Post, Gallagher warned Morris during the trial about his "outbursts" and finally ordered the shocks with a "Hit him" to the bailiff when Morris wouldn't stop talking. Morris says he was so frightened by the experience he never went back to court for the rest of his trial or sentencing, which the appeals court notes was a violation of his Sixth Amendment rights to be present at his own trial. Morris' attorney, meanwhile, tells the Texas Lawyer he didn't think his client was really getting shocked, and that Morris had acted "like a loaded cannon ready to go off." The attorney adds to the Star-Telegram that he had tried to calm Morris down and was "scared to death of what Morris might do." But the appeals court disagreed it was OK to shock Morris, noting that courts must not "allow practices like these to ... lead our courts to drift from justice into barbarism." (Read more overturned verdict stories.)