Judge Steps Down After Berating Frail Defendant Who Died Days Later
A judge who repeatedly shouted and berated a frail defendant who died just three days later has stepped down.
Broward County Circuit Court Judge Merrilee Ehrlich was recorded launching a verbal attack on defendant Sandra Faye Twiggs, 59, who had multiple medical conditions. Twiggs appeared in court on misdemeanour charges related to a family argument, according to the Miami Herald.
The judge's outburst was considered to be so extreme that public defender Howard Finkelstein requested that Ehrlich be forbidden from presiding over criminal cases in the future.
Gordon Weekes, the public defender's chief assistant, told the Miami Herald: "It is not appropriate for anyone to endure that kind of treatment.
"All that was required was a bit of patience, and a bit of respect to allow this lady to speak, to gather herself and to breathe."
Twiggs was arrested after a fight with her 19-year-old daughter; she had never been in trouble with the police before. She suffered from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a family friend told the Miami Herald that she came home from jail 'starving, dizzy and borderline breatheless'.
Daughter Michelle Ballard told the news outlet: "My mom is gone and there is nothing I can do about it.
"I'm now a teenager who will have to bury her mother."
The courtroom exchange shows Ehrlich apparently losing her temper with Twiggs several times, at one point telling her: 'I'm not going to spend all day with her interrupting me' and 'you've already said too much!'
She also tells Twiggs: "I'm not here to talk about your breathing treatments."
Twiggs wasn't the only defendant to get a telling off by the judge that day, either, according to reports. A second female defendant Nefreteri Tamalo was also told 'be quiet or be removed. Be quiet'.
Finkelstein wrote a letter complaining about Ehrlich to Broward's chief judge Jack Tuter, he which he said her behaviour was 'shocking' and 'aggressive' adding that she had a 'lack of emotional fitness to sit on the bench'.
It is not yet known when her resignation was handed in or when it will become effective.
Source: Miami Herald
Featured Image Credit: Broward County Circuit Court