There are Limits to Courtroom Security

Court security is a legitimate concern but the seventh Circuit has an interesting opinion that shows there are limits.

Inmate’s shackles and prison uniform at trial necessitate new trial in excessive force case against prison guards:  Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner issued this ruling on behalf of a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Here is an exerpt:

The sight of a shackled litigant is apt to make jurors think they’re dealing with a mad dog; and just the contrast between a litigant’s wearing prison garb and his opponents’ wearing law enforcement uniforms is likely to influence the jury against the prisoner, and has long been recognized as being highly prejudicial. See, e.g., Holbrook v. Flynn, 475 U.S. 560, 568–69 (1986); Estelle v. Williams, 425 U.S. 501, 504–05 (1976); Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337, 344 (1970); Stephenson v. Wilson, 619 F.3d 664, 668–69 (7th Cir. 2010). Although the issue has arisen mainly in criminal (including post-conviction) cases, as in the cases just cited, it arises from time to time in civil cases as well, such as this case, and the prejudicial effect of visible shackling and prison clothing has been recognized in those cases too. See, e.g., Lemons v. Skidmore, 985 F.2d 354, 356–57 (7th Cir. 1993); Davidson v. Riley, 44 F.3d 1118, 1122– 23 (2d Cir. 1995); Holloway v. Alexander, 957 F.2d 529, 530 (8th Cir. 1992).

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