Restraint During Trial

In People v. Garcia (1997) the Second District Court of Appeal upheld the trial court's order that defendant be belted during trial. Central to the opinion was the appellate court's conclusion that a stun belt was not a physical restraint within the meaning of Duran. This finding was based on the facts that the belt is not seen by the jurors, does not restrain physical movement, "does not diminish courtroom decorum, is less likely to discourage the wearer from testifying, and should not cause confusion, embarrassment or humiliation." (Id. at p. 1356.) However, in reaching this conclusion, the appellate court explicitly refused to consider whether the belt caused a psychological restraint stemming from the fear that sudden movement would cause a debilitating electric shock as it determined this assumption was unwarranted. (Id. at pp. 1356, 1357.) Moreover, it ignored all of Duran's references to nonvisible restraints. the opinion focuses almost exclusively on the fact that the stun belt is not visible. These omissions undercut the validity of Garcia's holding; we find the opinion to be less than persuasive and will therefore assess the issue independently.