Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

Should Shackles Be Taken Off Defendants In Court?

11/24/22 01:41 PM By Team MIRS

(Source: MIRS.news, Published 11/17/2022)  The Michigan Supreme Court is considering a new court rule that would allow some defendants to be free of restraints – such as handcuffs, chains or straitjackets – in a courtroom when a jury is present.

The proposed new rule would require no restraints be used before juries unless necessary to prevent physical harm, to prevent flight or if the defendant has a "history of disruptive courtroom behavior that has placed others in potentially harmful situations."

Garrett BURTON, assistant defender with the State Appellate Defender Office, said the proposed rule as written doesn't go far enough and will not protect SADO's clients.

"Shackles are humiliating. I don't think there's really any way around that. They embarrass and dehumanize our clients," he told the Court during a Wednesday hearing. "… I personally had one client who met his son for the first time in a courtroom while he was shackled. I think, if the rule is amended to require the least restrictive means necessary, any dignitary harm that flows from those shackles can be mitigated."

Burton also argued that other security measures – such as armed guards for Michigan prison inmates – are already in place. He also argued that shackles limit SADO clients from quietly communicating with their attorney because they cannot write, leading to spoken conversations on private matters which can be overheard.

If restraints are used, the defendant shall have "limited movement of the hands to read and handle documents and writings necessary to the hearing," according to the proposed new rules.

"Our clients are people and they should be treated as such," Burton said.