Court orders defendants to wear leg restraints at trial

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A federal judge in Terre Haute has granted the government’s request that two defendants wear modified leg irons at an upcoming jury trial due to their violent criminal histories – both outside of prison and while incarcerated. The men face charges stemming from the murder of a fellow inmate.

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson granted the request Thursday in United States of America v. William Bell and Lenard Dixon, 2:13-CR-0021, finding that William Bell and Lenard Dixon present “extreme need” that justifies being restrained at trial for courtroom security.

Dixon’s attorney argued that the men have an inherent right to be free from shackles at trial, consistent with the presumption that they are innocent until proven guilty. But Magnus-Stinson rejected the argument, citing that it is not the shackling itself but the prejudice that could result if the jury were allowed to continuously view the defendants in a restrained manner.

Both Bell and Dixon, inmates in the Federal Correction Complex in Terre Haute, have lengthy criminal histories that show a propensity of violence toward others. Bell has a history of being generally disruptive and resisting restraints and has broken facility property while incarcerated. Dixon has been disciplined on numerous occasions for possessing dangerous homemade weapons while incarcerated as well as threatening bodily harm.

Bell is being tried for allegedly killing fellow inmate Brian Pendelton while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex. He faces life imprisonment if convicted. Dixon is alleged to have been an accessory after the fact to the murder of Pendleton and faces up to 15 years in prison if guilty.

The court order requires that the men wear modified leg restraints fitted with tape and soft material to limit any audible noise. Their hands will not be restrained during trial. All tables in the courtroom will be skirted as they were at the hearing on the motions regarding restraints and the defendants will be transported as necessary outside of the presence of the jury.


  • There are other methods
    While I respect Her Honor and her action, there are other methods which are much more effective for restraining potentially violent innocent inmates. A long time ago there was a belt made which goes around the inmate under his clothing and it is controlled by remote control. The Judge holds the remote or the bailiff can hold it on the Judges order. The belt provides a small shock to the defendant, enough to stop them from what they are doing. It also provides escalation warning beeps that it will go off if the action is not changed. It does not permanently hurt the defendant, rather allows time for them to be properly restrained. I've only seen it activated 2 times. One time was when the defendant charged the bench, and one time when the defendants attorney was punched. Both times order was restored to the court very quickly.

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