A dispute over a murder defendant’s shoes in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom ended with a Broward Sheriff’s Office detention sergeant in handcuffs, BSO said.
Broward Circuit Judge Michael Usan was presiding over a second-degree murder trial Wednesday when the court called the defendant, Richard Walker, to testify.
But a BSO detention sergeant said the defendant could not because his shoes — brought to him for his court appearance by his lawyer — had not been checked and approved by BSO. Protocol requires that the clothing of any inmate transferred from jail to the courthouse be examined for security reasons.
Usan insisted that the defendant give testimony. The deputy resisted, citing security rules.
Usan then ruled that the deputy was in contempt of court and ordered another deputy to handcuff her.
“Properly vetting an inmate’s attire is not done in the courtroom,” Sheriff Gregory Tony said Thursday morning. “Deputies have policies and procedures in place that must be followed for everyone’s safety. The judge ordered a detention sergeant be held in contempt for not obeying his order that the inmate remain in court with shoes that had not been security checked and demanded that she be handcuffed.”
Tony ended the standoff after talking with Chief Judge Jack Tuter.
“Chief Judge Tuter and I had a conversation related to this important security matter and agreed the safety and security of our honorable judges and courtroom personnel can never be compromised for the sake of comfort, appearance or convenience,” Tony said. “The situation was resolved and the contempt was vacated.”
A communication specialist with the court system, Meredith Bush, said the judge was prohibited from commenting on a pending case.
“Our general statement on the incident is: ‘After consultation with the sheriff and the chief judge, the matter was amicably resolved,’ ” she wrote in an email.
This story has been updated to add the name of the defendant, the information on the judge’s inability to comment, and to correct that the lawyer for the defendant was not a public defender.