Superior Court Judge David O. Carter, who is under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union for using duct tape to silence the mouths of unruly defendants in his courtroom, said Monday he will continue the practice.
Calling the taping of prisoners’ mouths both “humiliating” and “unconscionable,” the ACLU sent a complaint about the practice to the Commission on Judicial Performance last week.
ACLU attorney Rebecca Jurado said the use of duct tape over a prisoner’s mouth could pose a safety risk if the tape resulted in choking or a breathing impairment. She asked the commission to order Carter to stop the practice immediately.
Carter, who in 1983 began ordering his bailiff to wrap duct tape around the mouths of defendants who used profanity or spit at court personnel, said he has employed the technique no more than 10 times in his courtrooms.
The judge said he believes taping is a more effective technique than removing rowdy prisoners from the courtroom. Carter said the prisoners are taped in such a manner that their breathing is not obstructed.
“I’m very much against removing a defendant from the courtroom because they become heroes in the other prisoners’ eyes,” Carter said. "(Unruly defendants) are often disruptive to attract attention and gain supremacy over the court.”
The most recent incident in which a prisoner’s mouth was taped occurred on June 12, when the judge ordered his bailiff to silence Adolf Bernie Chavez, 28, after the defendant had shouted profanity while being held in a caged portion of Carter’s courtroom in Santa Ana.