Judge orders to have defendant's mouth taped shut in courtroom in viral video
The Common Pleas Court Judge John J. Russo ordered to duct-tape the mouth of 32-year-old Franklyn Williams after he wouldn’t let him carry out the trial.
Fox 8 News Cleveland shared the video showing Williams sitting in front of the jury while his attorneys and a couple of police officers were surrounding him. During court proceedings, Williams had several outbursts, interrupting others while they talked.
Russo told him to stay quiet multiple times, but the man refused to do it. After a while, the judge warned him that if he kept talking, he would duct-tape his mouth. Williams kept talking, so Russo asked the police officers to cover his mouth.
As the six officers approached him, he tried to stand up, but one of them held him tight and sat him back in his chair.
Then, they used a red duct-tape to shut his mouth and the court proceedings re-started. While some people considered that what Russo did was exactly what should be done, others, like the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, condemned his decision.
"We cannot regard this as normal. It is humiliating. It doesn’t just deprive this person of the opportunity to speak before his life is taken away, it steals his dignity. Everything about this is wrong," said our staff attorney @elizabethbonham https://t.co/xsRRTkqRGg— ACLU of Ohio (@acluohio) August 1, 2018
Outrageous. Franklyn Williams was shackled and silenced by a judge who refused to listen to his pleas. This is not justice, this is an assault on the rights of a Black man in court. https://t.co/XOj59r9trn— Rashad Robinson (@rashadrobinson) August 2, 2018
A JUDGE ORDERED THESE WHITE COPS TO DUCT TAPE THIS BLACK MAN’S MOUTH SHUT DURING HIS TRIAL, RIGHT IN FRONT OF CAMERAS.— Ash 🎙 (@AshleighHaddad) August 5, 2018
THIS IS 2018. https://t.co/0tSaBwThuC
As People reported, Russo apologized soon after the incident and decided to take himself off the case. He confessed that he regretted ordering the policeman to cover Williams’ mouth as it was not the best choice.
The judge pointed out that, even though there were legal precedents for gagging a defendant to keep order in a court, he apologized for taking that action.
“Despite many warnings for you to stop your frequent and offensive outbursts — I believe it was over 60 interruptions in 54 minutes — you continued to interrupt and hinder the legal procedures of the court, procedures that are designed to protect your rights, the rights of your victims and the justice system,” added Russo.
Williams was sentenced to 24 years in prison on different charges, including robbery, aggravated robbery, and kidnapping.
Something similar happened last year when a judge in a Detroit court lost his patience with a woman who was laughing while a member of the victim's family was reading a statement.