Courthouse use of “stun cuffs” not a new development

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Cedric Poore. Courtesy.

After coming under fire for the use of court-ordered “stun-cuffs” that will be attached to Cedric Poore’s leg during his upcoming murder trial, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office said on Tuesday the device had been utilized in a number of trials over the years.

Poore’s trial for the infamous “Fairmont Terrace” killings of 2013 is expected to begin this week. His brother, James Poore, was convicted of the same killings in March, though he has appealed and is expected to testify against Cedric.

During jury selection on Monday, District Judge Kurt Glassco announced that Cedric Poore would be required to wear a device on his leg that would allow a deputy to shock the murder defendant if he got out of order. The Tulsa World reported that John David Echols, an attorney for Poore, said in court the device was not necessary for his client, as Poore “is a very cooperative client.”

Devices like the one Poore will wear are designed to be worn underneath the defendant’s clothes, thus allowing him to be unshackled in the courtroom during what’s expected to be a lengthy trial. Defendants in criminal trials are typically allowed to wear regular clothing and appear in the courtroom without restraints, in order to avoid tainting jurors.

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Nevertheless, local activist group We The People Oklahoma criticized Glassco’s decision, releasing a strongly-worded rebuke of the device on Tuesday, calling its use “problematic” and asking the state to make the device illegal.

They note in the press release the device has been banned in some places (like Los Angeles County, where a defendant sued in the 1990s after being hit with 50,000 volts for interrupting the judge,) and courts that have granted the ban have said the device could create a level of anxiety high enough in a defendant as to impair their ability to assist in their own defense.

“Unfortunately these stun devices have been discharged when judges became irritated with defendants even though the defendants were not displaying violent behavior. The devices have also accidentally discharged in courtrooms causing injury,” the We The People press release states.

The device used in Tulsa County District Court are referred to by courthouse security officers as “stun cuffs,” according to a statement from TCSO. The cuffs are worn “around the calf” of a defendant and can “administer a shock like a Taser” when used.

“In order for a defendant to be required to wear a stun cuff, the defense must agree to this added security measure or a judge must issue an order,” the statement reads.

Victims’ families: ‘Peace, relief’ after conviction in Fairmont Terrace killings

“Stun belts” reported on nationally administer a 50,000-volt shock, though it’s unclear how strong the cuffs used locally are.

An article in The Atlantic from last year said similar devices can reach up to 80,000 volts. That amount can incapacitate, but is nowhere near the high-end of voltage available in high-end stun guns, which can reach voltage into the millions.

TCSO said on Tuesday they would not be commenting further on use of the cuffs, at the request of the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.

But still, the use of similar devices is controversial. Amnesty international, an organization which aims to fight for human rights and “change oppressive laws,” has for years decried it as a torture device, and last year a Texas murder trial was briefly postponed after the defendant was reportedly shocked by the judge.

And though the device must be either agreed upon by the defense attorney or court-ordered, merely wearing doesn’t necessarily mean a judge is free to use it. A former Maryland judge was sentenced to probation earlier this year for ordering a deputy to stun a defendant who was acting as his own defense in 2014.

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Dylan Goforth

Editor in Chief/Staff Writer

Dylan has two kids, three dogs, and no time to himself. He's fueled by QuikTrip and Twitter. Contact: dylan@readfrontier.com or 918-931-9405.
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