Court: Use of stun belt on defendant during trial OK


LITTLE ROCK — The state Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a man’s argument that the fear of receiving an electric shock prevented him from assisting his attorney during his trial on drug charges.

The high court upheld the conviction of Joe Anthony Simmons, 32, who was convicted of drug offenses and failure to appear in Washington County Circuit Court in 2008 and was sentenced to 60 years in prison with 30 years suspended.

During his trial, Simmons was required to wear a stun belt which could be used to give him an electric shock by remote control.

Simmons argued on his appeal that he received ineffective counsel from his trial attorney because the attorney did not object to the use of the stun belt and did not ask the judge to tell jurors not to consider the restraint device during deliberations.

Simmons claimed he was unable to assist his attorney during the trial because he was intimidated by the device and afraid to communicate or move suddenly.

The Supreme Court said Thursday there was no evidence that jurors could see the belt, and Simmons was never shocked during the trial. It also said he passed notes to his attorney during the trial and testified competently.

“We agree with the trial court’s conclusion that appellant failed to demonstrate prejudice to support the claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to object on the basis of the restraint,” the court said in a per curiam order.