Court Security

Judge who ordered deputy to shock 'rude' pro se defendant has been taken off bench

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Image of a Stun-Cuff from Myers Enterprises, Inc.

Updated: It appears that a call by the public defender for the state of Maryland to ban a senior circuit court judge from hearing cases may have been heeded by the state’s top court.

On Friday, the Maryland Court of Appeals said there was “good cause” to remove retired Judge Robert Nalley’s authority to hear cases, the Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday afternoon.

While the appeals court didn’t refer to a complaint by state public defender Paul DeWolfe Jr., he has made headlines by calling for Nalley’s removal from the bench because the judge ordered a deputy to shock a “rude” and “non-responsive” pro se defendant who wouldn’t stop talking.

Defendant Delvon L. King was reportedly talking over Nalley on July 23 as jury selection began in his gun-possession case. A court clerk said King ignored several instructions from the jurist to “shut up,” according to the Baltimore Post-Examiner, the Baltimore Sun and a Washington Post (reg. req.) columnist.

Nalley then told a Charles County sheriff’s deputy to activate an electronic Stun-Cuff that King was wearing on his ankle. As King was shocked by the device, he screamed and fell to the floor writhing. It appears no potential jurors were in the courtroom at the time.

An internal investigation by the sheriff’s department, which is conducted in every “use of force” incident, found the deputy did not act improperly. However, the Stun-Cuff is marketed as a device to control violent defendants and prevent escape. Observers including DeWolfe said it should not have been activated to silence a defendant who didn’t present any physical threat.

“For a judge to inflict physical pain for the sole purpose of silencing an individual is unacceptable,” DeWolfe told Post columnist Courtland Milloy on Monday. “In a court of law, it is the judge’s responsibility to protect the rights of those involved in the process, not to violate them.”

Staff attorney David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland declined to discuss the King incident specifically. But Rocah told the Post-Examiner and Sun, speaking generally, that denial of a defendant’s objections; verbal warnings; and holding a defendant in contempt would be appropriate remedies for excessive talking.

The use of an electronic shocking device “is limited to extreme situations,” he told the Post-Examiner. “It’s not proper to use it just because a judge is annoyed with a defendant. It’s not a torture device to make defendants more compliant. It’s not a device for summary punishment.”

The Maryland Judiciary and the Charles County Sheriff’s Office had not responded, as of Tuesday evening, to requests for comment from the Post. Nalley has previously not responded to questions from a Post-Examiner reporter.

The state has a mandatory retirement age for judges, the Sun notes, but Nalley had been given permission by the appeals court to hear circuit court and district court cases after he retired last year.

Below, you can see a video demonstration by Fox station KNPN of a Stun-Cuff in action.

Related coverage: “Judge Says He Deflated Courthouse Worker’s Tire—More Than Once” “Five-Day Suspension Ordered for Tire-Deflating Judge”

Updated at 2:45 p.m. to include information from latest Baltimore Sun article about appeals court decision to ban Nalley from hearing cases, and on Sept. 11 to add the video.

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