FORT WORTH – If a judge is going to slap stun cuffs on an accused
child predator in his or her courtroom, make sure there’s a record as to
why the defendant is zapped three times during the trial – that’s the
lesson a Texas judge learned recently.
On Aug. 19, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct hit Judge
George Gallagher, who presides over the 396th District Court in Tarrant
County, with a public warning.
According to the commission’s findings, in 2016 Judge Gallagher
presided over a criminal case against Terry Lee Morris. Because of
Morris’ disruptive behavior at pretrial hearings, Judge Gallagher’s
bailiffs recommended a stun cuff be placed on his ankle for the trial.
During the trial, Judge Gallagher ordered his bailiffs to activate
Morris’ stun cuff three times. The activation of the cuffs caused Morris
injury and resulted in his refusal to return to the courtroom for his
own trial. Judge Gallagher concluded the guilt-innocence phase of the
trial while Morris was absent.
Morris was tried and convicted on one count of soliciting the sexual performance of a child.
On appeal, the El Paso Court of Appeals overturned Morris’
conviction and ordered a new trial, finding Judge Gallagher did not
order the activation of the stun cuff for legitimate security purposes.
In response to the commission’s inquiries, Judge Gallagher
explained he ordered the activation because Morris began moving from
behind the defense counsel table into the court well and posed a
security threat to others in the courtroom.
The trial court’s record is devoid of any description of a security threat.
However, written statements from those present at the trial, including Morris’ attorney, support the judge’s version of events.