Honoring The Defendant’s Rights, Duct Tape Edition

Protip: If you get the opportunity to nail down the duct tape contract for the Alachua County, Florida, jail, seize it. It’s going to be huge!

On the one hand, Circuit Judge Robert Groeb’s steadfast belief in the right of a criminal defendant to be present for all critical stages of his or her case is admirable.  After all, it’s their life, and they should certainly be there to watch it go down the drain.  But his methods leave something to be desired.

On the 16th day of April, Judge Groeb issued an order of some concern.  It starts out innocuously enough:

In order to ensure that a defendant’s right to be present during the critical stages of his or her case, as required by Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.130 and 3.180, is protected, the undersigned is implementing the following policy and procedure which shall apply to: (1) all courtroom proceedings arising out of Division ill ofthe Criminal Division ofthe Alachua County Circuit Court; and, (2) all first appearances by video from the Alachua County Jail presided over by the undersigned.

Protecting rights is always a good thing, and such sensitivity toward them by a judge who is new to criminal term is clearly a good sign.  But as is always the case, the devil is in the details:

Jail staff shall not remove an inmate defendant who becomes verbally out of control from either the courtroom or the first appearance room at the Alachua County jail. Jail staff shall instead use duct tape, or a similar form of verbal restraint, to cover the inmate defendant’s mouth and allow the person to remain, so long as he or she does not constitute a safety threat as determined by jail staff.

Full stop. Duct tape?  As in, jail staff, feel free to wrap duct tape around a person’s mouth whenever you want to shut some guy down?  And if you don’t happen to have any duct tape available (see where that contract comes in?), try whatever “similar form of verbal restraint” suits your fancy.

It’s unclear what the judge means by “similar form of verbal restraint.”  Maybe electrical tape?  Scotch tape?  Maybe that cool blue painters tape that pulls off leaving a straight edge of paint?  Or perhaps it means shoving a sock down a defendant’s throat and putting a gun to his head to make sure he doesn’t spit it out?   This could work too:

Or if they find out that the cost of a decent duct tape contract exceeds the circuit court’s budget, the judge may want to go for a more permanent solution.  Sure, it costs more, but you only have to buy it once.

Plus, how cool looking is that?  Much better than this, which (frankly) just seems too humiliating for any defendant.

On the bright side, the word around the Gainesville courthouse is that another order, directing jail staff beat the living crap out of unruly defendants who refuse to do as they’re told, was ultimately rejected after due consideration.  As for the duct tape order, well, that is

done ordered

If you’re a defendant in Judge Groeb’s courtroom, you’d better hope they have some duct tape around should you utter something inadvertently.  The alternatives may be far worse.

14 comments on “Honoring The Defendant’s Rights, Duct Tape Edition

  1. william doriss

    Does it leave a residue, or simpley a baaad taste in your mouth?
    Never mind Freedom of Speech. We want Freedom from Speech,
    in this courtroom that is.
    The Mouth is mightier than the Sword.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s an interesting question, to which I have no answer. Perhaps you could perform an experiment and report back?

  2. Bruce Coulson

    It leaves a gummy residue, but sufficient saliva makes it go away.

    One hopes that defendants in the courtroom don’t suffer from any breathing problems. (I know; if they were good citizens they wouldn’t be there, and if they respected the dignity of the courtroom they wouldn’t get duct-taped, so if they suffocate it’s their own fault.)

    1. Brett Middleton

      The possibility of asphyxiation is not the only potential medical problem with this little scheme. One can only hope that somebody with a clue will give that judge a tactful heads up before some mouthy defendant gets his rights protected to death.

    1. SHG Post author

      The order seems clear. If duct tape is available, then duct tape must be used. Gaffers tape cannot replace duct tape or the terrorists win.

  3. John Barleycorn

    I am surprised he didn’t go with a patented trade named duck tape in his order as there are many variants. They are similar but in many cases not comparable at all.

    Gorilla Tape comes to mind when speaking of duck tape but there are also several quality medical tapes available that would do a far better job.

    Problem is a significant portion of the population is allergic to the adhesive in tape. The Judge’s Tape Applicators might want to consult the BDSM community for several convenient ways to minimize or avoid allergic reaction altogether before they jump in whole hog.

    Also, just for the record I would disagree with Bruce’s spit remedy. For garden variety tape adhesive residue cases I would advise some warm mineral oil then soap and water. Some distilled vinegar mixed with the mineral oil will do the job right quick in extreme cases and when time is of the essence.

    Brett’s concern with asphyxiation are overblown but an open airway via the nasal passages is obviously critical to maintain especially if any panic or hyperventilation occurs.

    I am very surprised the judge went with duck tape, or tape at all for that matter, as there are handful more efficient methods available including some well constructed and adjustable ball gags with replaceable and sized balls that are not only “choke and dental safe” but nearly indestructible.

    Finally, if Circuit Judge Robert Groeb isn’t in fact a fucking sadist prick and this was just an order given out of frustration I think he should consider a clear plexi sound proof room at the back of the court room with a few comfortable chairs for the verbally uncontrollable defendants and their CDLs in his courtroom with a volume controlled and switched two way audio feed with everything recorded, if this really is an issue that fucks with his orderly sensibilities.

    1. JimBill

      Duck Tape is a name brand. They have a picture of a duck on it. The generic is duct tape.

      1. John Barleycorn

        I am rolling with the most recent world war and ammo cans.

        Like water off a ducks butt and so many more uses too as this post points out.

        But hey they put Daffy Duck and
        Batman on Band
        -Aid brand band-aids these days too.

  4. Dogood

    Hmm…this does not seem as simple an issue as presented here. I am not a lawyer, judge and have thankfully never been a criminal defendant however, I wonder what should be done with someone who would be so out of control when coming before the judge as to need tape to shut their mouth? I deduce from the order that it is required for the defendant to be present during the proceedings so someone could just be out of control running their mouth non-stop. I have seen tv jail shows where arrested and out of control inmates are restrained in chairs with a mask over their face to protect the officers from spitting and biting, I’m not sure how this is different…duck tape may be inelegant but it is better than a staple gun or hot glue! If you don’t want tape across your mouth, shut it and respect the law and process that you are going to count on to beat the wrap or minimize the consequences of your actions.

    I think the tape would be put to better use on the lawyers…but what do I know?

    1. SHG Post author

      There is nothing more illuminating than a comment from someone who knows absolutely nothing about the problem. You rock!

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