Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony has decided that criminal defendants will be handcuffed during bail hearings after a public defender was punched in the face during a court proceeding.
Closed-circuit video of Wednesday’s jailhouse bond court session shows William Green, 27, attacking public defender Julie Chase from behind in a room crowded with inmates. She was knocked to the ground, stunning almost everyone in the room as well as the judge, who was presiding remotely. Deputies quickly handcuffed Green and cleared the room.
Gordon Weeks, executive chief assistant at the public defender’s office, said the attack was preventable. He said Green appeared to be in a “clear psychotic state” at the time, and had been brought for his first appearance before a judge on charges he battered a technician at a mental hospital.
Tony, who was recently appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to replace Sheriff Scott Israel, said he too is troubled that an inmate would attack an officer of the court, but the answer is more security.
“Although I understand their concern that having deputies standing close to the inmates or having them wear handcuffs or shackles could imply guilt, they must in turn understand that their requests made it possible for this unusual situation to occur,” Tony said.
The public defenders’ office disagreed with the new procedures precisely because it impacts a defendant’s presumption of innocence.
While it’s deplorable that a lawyer has been attacked in a courtroom, shackling defendants shifts the presumption from innocence to guilt, and perhaps even worse. A handcuffed individual is in cuffs because he/she is a danger to himself or others. It lays the grounds for an unfair bias against the defendant. This is a classic overreaction on the part of a newly appointed sheriff.