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
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.