March 27th, 2007 09:49 AM
Judge pulls gun in court
This incident is not the first one that has occurred in this particular courthouse, but I believe it is the first time a judge has resorted to producing a weapon for his own self-defense. Notice the anti-gun comment by the Public Defender.
The Florida Times-Union
March 27, 2007
Judge pulls pistol in court
By PAUL PINKHAM
A Jacksonville judge pulled a handgun in his courtroom after a spectator attacked a defendant.
The fracas occurred Friday after a crime victim's father hurdled a railing and punched the handcuffed defendant.
Circuit Judge John Merrett then handed his gun to a clerk for safekeeping when he realized bailiffs had subdued the attacker. He met with the man in his chambers and later ordered him released without bail even though he was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors.
Merrett said Monday he would do the same thing again if a similar situation arose in his courtroom. He said he never put his finger on the trigger or pointed the gun at anyone.
But Duval County Public Defender Bill White said the incident was scary enough for lawyers in the courtroom that he plans to talk to the chief judge about disarming the judges.
Most judges in Duval County have concealed weapons permits and have gone through firearms training even if they don't carry a gun. Merrett, a former assistant state attorney, said he has had extensive firearms training.
State Attorney Harry Shorstein said the judge committed no crime.
Merrett, who took office in January after his election in November, was presiding over a court hearing involving Derrick Kendall McNiel, 21, charged with molesting a child. The judge said the victim's father, seeing the defendant for the first time, leapt over the railing and charged McNiel, who was cuffed and shackled.
A police report said he landed several punches and threatened to kill McNiel. It took five bailiffs to restore order. The Times-Union isn't identifying the man because doing so might identify his child.
Merrett said because of the way his courtroom is configured, he couldn't see the scuffle below his bench, so he drew his gun as a precaution.
"I didn't know if he was going after me or the bailiffs or the defendant," the judge said.
Merrett said he held the gun at his side while he peered over the bench. Once he saw that the man was subdued, he said he handed the gun to his courtroom clerk and asked her to lock it in a drawer. He said he did that because the only way for him to get out of the courtroom was to walk past the man and the officers.
"I was stuck," the judge said.
He praised bailiffs, who are armed, for reacting quickly to protect the courtroom.
Merrett said he had the victim's father, who had not been arrested, brought to his chambers where he calmed him down and told him to leave the courthouse if he couldn't control his emotions. Later, when police charged the man with felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor battery, Merrett had him brought back to court so he could release him on his own recognizance.
Merrett said while he doesn't condone the attack, he can't blame the man for doing what he did.
White said the incident easily could have escalated into a dangerous situation, and Merrett's gun added to the potential danger.
"It's very disconcerting for a lawyer to be in the line of fire," he said.
White also questioned the judge's decision to talk to the father and release him because he witnessed the attack and could be called to testify.
He said he plans to talk to Chief Circuit Judge Donald Moran about preventing judges from carrying guns in the courtroom or at least declaring that they are armed.
Moran said he would take such a request under consideration but said part of the problem is the design of Merrett's courtroom.
The tiny courtroom was designed for civil cases and hasn't generally been used for criminal proceedings until this year when caseloads required adding a felony judge.
The chief judge said he encourages all the judges to receive firearms training and obtain concealed weapons permits.
"Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual change; but this change is not [an improvement]. For everything that is given, something is taken."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
March 27th, 2007 10:06 AM
Typical kneejerk. And the guns worn by the balliffs didn't, even though they were in close proximity to the man? I do think the judge may have drawn his weapon a little prematurely, without knowing the attacker's target, but its understandable when a guy leaps over a fence and charges toward you. At least he kept it by his side.
Originally Posted by gimpy
I kinda wonder why he didn't just holster it again after the excitement was over. He was perfectly legal.
Hopefully, this guy will stick to his guns (to make a slight pun).
Originally Posted by gimpy
March 27th, 2007 10:13 AM
Typical anti-gun pap: 'White said the incident easily could have escalated into a dangerous situation, and Merrett's gun added to the potential danger. "It's very disconcerting for a lawyer to be in the line of fire," he said.'
The felonious attack was the threat. A defensive weapon being brought out to guard against that threat it not a threat.
The lawyers and everyone in that courtroom should be disconcerted about two things: (a) why concern over judges (or any citizen) being able to defend themselves against felonious assault is more of a concern than felonious assault; and (b) why someone committing felonious assault and battery with a judge as witness gets released. Now, that's disconcerting.
Your best weapon is your brain. Don't leave home without it.
self defense (A.O.J.).
How does disarming
the number of victims?
Reason over Force: The Gun is Civilization (Marko Kloos)
NRA, SAF, GOA, OFF, ACLDN.
March 27th, 2007 11:33 AM
Sounds like he did what he should do if he thought his life was in danger. Steve48
March 27th, 2007 10:17 PM
Good for the Judge.
I too wonder why he didn't just re-holster though. Seems that would have been much safer than handing a loaded gun to someone else.
March 27th, 2007 11:19 PM
I used to know an honorable lawyer ( yes they do exist ) who became a district judge here in colorado ( the highest trial court ) , so i went from adversary on the stand to simply testifying on cases before him . All thro the time we would visit , and occationaly socially have a get together. Great guy and a heck of a judge who now sets on the federal circuit court ( a bush appointee ) . Oh yea and to tie it to this thread , as long as i have known him he has packed , after he met me he packed a 1911 in .45 since when we shot he could handle it well and i could not envision him shooting further than the back of the courtroom in day to day life .. he agreed and learned to handle do some amazing double and triple taps ..
Dont screw with the bench , some judges hold you in contempt , and some are capable of showing you contempt .
Make sure you get full value out of today , Do something worthwhile, because what you do today will cost you one day off the rest of your life .
We only begin to understand folks after we stop and think .
Criminals are looking for victims, not opponents.
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