The ACLU of Southern California has sent letters to the Presiding Judges of both the Municipal and Superior Courts of Los Angeles County calling on the courts to ensure that judges or other court personnel will terminate use of stun belts to punish or subdue non-threatening defendants.
On June 30 Long Beach Municipal Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassini ordered a bailiff to send 50,000 volts of electricity through a bound defendant because he was talking too much. The ACLU joined a national and international coalition of human rights activists who demand that this inhumane practice be ended, once and for all.
Letter sent to Los Angeles County Municipal Court Presiding Judge Veronica S. McBeth and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert W. Parkin follow:
"On June 30 Long Beach Municipal Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassini ordered a bailiff to send 50,000 volts of electricity through a bound defendant because he was talking too much.
"The ACLU Foundation of Southern California calls on the Court to ensure that this inhuman practice be ended at once and the use of electro-shock belts as punishment be forever banned.
"As you are aware, these belts were originally designed to control physically violent defendants for whom no other means of restraint by law enforcement agents was possible. Their use must be restricted solely to those rare instances when a defendant becomes violent and threatens the physical safety of court personnel and the public, and law enforcement has no other means to restrain the person.
"There are other obvious and tested solutions to behavior that is disruptive but not physically threatening. Defendants or others who interrupt court proceedings may be removed from the courtroom and even required to view the proceedings by video.
"Under the VIII Amendment to our nation's constitution we are forbidden to inflict `cruel and unusual punishment. . .' Use of the electro-shock belt as punishment for disruptive behavior is not only cruel and unusual but macabre, and coverts our courtrooms into modern day torture chambers. Meeting out punishment via the shock belt also constitutes an obvious and egregious violation of a defendant's right to due process."
"We seek an assurance from the Court that, with the sole exception of controlling a physically violent defendant who poses an imminent and extreme threat to public safety, use of the electro-shock belt will be banned from the courtrooms. Please be advised that without such representation, we will have no recourse but to litigate the practice immediately."