Judge orders man's mouth taped shut in court, then orders video of it destroyed

A man so vexed District Court Judge Marilyn Castle in Lafayette that she ordered his mouth taped shut. The Advocate reports that Michael C. Duhon, already found guilty of theft, repeatedly interrupted his sentencing hearing. Katie Gagliano reports how Castle lost control of her courtroom:

According to court minutes, Duhon objected when the judge asked him to stop submitting motions on his own behalf in the case instead of through his attorney. He objected again when evidence was submitted. He attempted to offer arguments against the inclusion of the evidence and was told to speak through his attorney. After requesting at least twice for Duhon to remain quiet, Castle ordered the bailiff to tape Duhon's mouth shut during witness testimony. The tape was removed after an objection from Duhon's public defense attorney, Aaron Adams. He requested the judge remove his client from the courtroom instead of putting duct tape on his client's mouth.

She also held public defender Michael Gregory —not representing Duhon, but in the gallery—with contempt of court for video-recording the incident, and ordered that the video be destroyed. Gregory apparently obviated the command by submitting the video as evidence in his own contempt hearing; Castle placed it under seal.

Lafayette Judge Marilyn Castle ordered public defender Michael Gregory to pay a $100 fine and said he cannot bring his cellphone, nor use someone else's, to the Lafayette Parish courthouse for six months. …

Gregory said he felt there was "a compelling necessity to record the proceeding," but Castle said the focus was on the inappropriate filming itself, not what the recording captured.

"The subject of what was photographed is irrelevant. It's that you did it," Castle said.

Gregory submitted a copy of the video as evidence and Castle put it under seal, making it unavailable to the public.

The Las Vegas Review Journal finds solidarity among area public defenders.

Koons said she occasionally saw defendants removed from Castle's courtroom while on the verge of hysterics or after screaming, but she's never seen physical force like what occurred July 18. She said duct-taping someone isn't appropriate or humane, especially when the option to temporarily remove the defendant from the courtroom exists.

"I can't imagine this happening to a family member. To think of it being any other human being in any other circumstance, to think of that happening, is horrifying," she said.

Amanda Cannon, a New Iberia public defender, said barring discussion of the duct-taping ignored the context that influenced Gregory's actions and masked the egregious behavior that took place.

"Protecting someone and their dignity and humanity is more important than this judicial canon," she said.

Physically gagging mouthy defendants while keeping them in court is an American judicial fetish with a history:

Sometimes a gag is used, but not tape. In 2013, a Houston man was led away from the courtroom and brought back with a cloth gag after outbursts, NBC-DFW reported.

The Supreme Court weighed in as well. In the 1970 case Illinois v. Allen, the justices unanimously decided that defendants do not have an absolute right to even be present at their trial, let alone speak at it. The court found that trial judges could "bind and gag him as a last resort, thereby keeping him present; (2) cite him for criminal or civil contempt; or (3) remove him from the courtroom, while the trial continues, until he promises to conduct himself properly," if a defendant was being disorderly.

Here's an example of the sort of image (of accused robber Franklyn Williams in John Russo's Ohio court) that judicial regrets are made of.