Shackled Defendants

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

The Supreme Court has ruled it's unconstitutional to force capital murder defendants to appear before juries in chains and shackles.

In a 7-2 vote, justices threw out the sentence of a Missouri man, who was shackled in leg irons and handcuffed to a chain around his belly when he faced a jury that put him on death row.

The high court has already held that people on trial can be shackled only if prosecutors have a strong argument for it. Monday’s decision involves sentencing hearings in capital murder cases.

Writing for the court, Justice Stephen Breyer said shackling "almost inevitably affects adversely the jury's perception of the character of the defendant."

However, justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia disagreed, saying the ruling ignores serious security issues facing courts.

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