Feces Attack over Courtroom Restraints Dispute
For many California criminal defendants going before a jury, they aren't too concerned about making a fashion statement. Instead, they simply want to make a good first impression.
That is why California courts in an effort to ensure a fair trial generally allow law enforcement agencies to unshackle, remove handcuffs or unsecure criminal defendants in court when a jury is present.
Weusi McGowan, 38, also was worried about what not to wear in the courtroom during his robbery trial. According to an article by the San Diego Union Tribune, he smeared feces on his lawyer and threw it at jurors because he believed some of them previously saw him in restraints while being escorted into the courtroom.
During the jury selection, McGowan asked the judge to throw out the case but after questioning the jurors involved the judge dismissed them from the proceedings and then allowed the selection process to continue.
Clearly, the fashion police don't show up at court trials and Tim Gun and Heidi Klum, hosts of Project Runway, won't be there to judge defendants on their style or clothing. Yet, studies have shown that during criminal court trials more attractive defendants are often viewed by jurors as less guilty and are given lighter sentences. Lawyers say defendants wearing prison jumpsuits can often sway jurors, leaving them with impression of guilt.
Typically, attorneys advise their clients how to dress for court appearances and may bring them street clothes prior to trial to change before going to see the jury.
In some cases like the O.J. Simpson and Scott Peterson trials, and despite criminal charges against both men, they were allowed to wear their own clothing. Some criminal specialists advise clients to dress as if they were going to church or for a job interview. Looks like beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
As for McGowan, the Union Tribune reports that he was sentenced to 31 years in prison. This includes punishment for two assault charges related to the feces, plus the robbery and burglary charges he had already been facing. He pleaded guilty to all charges.
In his defense, according to court records, the day his request for mistrial was denied, McGowan did tell sheriff's deputies, "You better put the chains back on before I do something."
- Jumpsuits versus Street Clothing (The Salinas Californian)
- Defendant wears flip flop instead of shoes in court (The Fresno Bee)
- Stages of a Criminal Case: Trial (FindLaw)
- Criminal Defense FAQs (provided by Gary W. Owens)
- Violent Crimes and the State's Burden of Proof (provided by Clyde M. Taylor Jr.)