Secret physical intimidation during court testimony in USA

16 April 2006

This page is a compilation of information about the secret physical intimidation of defendants (and possibly others) giving testimony in court in the USA, with particular reference to the current case of Zacarias Moussaoui.

The essential information is contained in these two consecutive paragraphs from the Washington Post.

But the judge has also cracked the whip. She has allowed federal marshals to fit Moussaoui with a stun device during court appearances, sources familiar with the case said. Lawyers who have seen one said the gadget is attached to the defendant's body, under the clothing.

A deputy equipped with a small remote control stands at the ready to administer jolts of electricity if violence is threatened. "It's enough to give you convulsions on the floor,'' said Shapiro, whose client Christopher Andaryl Wills, a kidnapping defendant, wore one during his 2001 trial at the federal courthouse where Moussaoui is on trial for his life.

"Moussaoui's Ejection Highlights Judges' Authority", Jerry Markon, Washington Post, February 8, 2006; Page A06

A subsequent paragraph reads:

As he left the first time, Moussaoui noted that he didn't "want to give you any excuse to pretend that I make any aggressive move." His remark might be interpreted, court observers said, as: Please, don't zap me.

This article contains further useful information. The quotations above were extracted from the article as it appears on, where at the time of writing (16 April 2006), it is freely available, spread across two web pages: and

From the paragraphs quoted above we note:

Evidently one Pete Williams, described as "NBC News justice correspondent" cannot (or at least did not) find out the facts in this supposedly public trial either. The following is extracted from (still available at the time of writing, 16 April 2006) - an NBC (USA) television news show transcript 'The Abrams Report' for March 27:

WILLIAMS: Yes, the old, you know, outbursts were gone. The old Zacarias Moussaoui who was prone to histrionics, who had to be told to sit down by the judge, who sort of argued with everything, fought all the procedures, he was very docile today. Now I'm speculating here, but I think it-you know we believe that he's wearing one of those stun belts, and it may be that he was very worried about doing anything that would cause the marshals to press that button, understandably so, but for whatever reason you're right, he acted like any other witness. He was very methodical, and it was the contrast between the extreme hatred and preparation to hijack planes on the one hand, and his very placid demeanor on the other.

ABRAMS: A stun belt? They literally...


ABRAMS: ... have something around his waist that they can push a button and...

WILLIAMS: Well as you know, these are sometimes used in the courts and we're not positive about this. He's wearing a prison jumpsuit, you can't see what's under it, but some previous court documents have led us to speculate that he might be wearing one. Again, I'm not certain about this...

ABRAMS: Right.

WILLIAMS: ... but another piece of evidence that would suggest that he was is when the jury selection started and he would stand up and say he's al Qaeda, the judge would have him led out of the courtroom and each time he would put his hands on his head and say look I'm not doing anything threatening, which suggests he was trying to say you know, don't zap me, I'm behaving myself. So I'm not sure about that, but it's a possibility.

ABRAMS: All right. Pete Williams as always thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: Yes, sir...