Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Stun Belt" Reversal

The New York Court of Appeals has reversed a criminal conviction of a defendant charged with the murder by strangulation of a 14 year old victim. The trial court had ordered the defendant to wear a "stun belt" restraint during the trial. The court here reversed the affirmance of the conviction by the Appellate Division, concluding that forcing a defendant to wear the belt absent any showing that he was a danger at trial that would justify the use of the belt.

A dissent would hold that the presumption of innocence was not implicated: "...defendant failed to show that the stun belt was visible to the jury or otherwise compromised the fundamental fairness of the trial; he never objected that the stun belt impaired his ability to communicate with his attorney or meaningfully participate in his defense. Since I therefore do not believe that the defendant has shown any actual prejudice, I would affirm his conviction." (Mike Frisch)


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