BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – A sucker punch in the middle of a bond hearing Wednesday in Broward County has brought about a major change.
All inmates in the county are now required to be handcuffed during magistrate hearings.
The change took effect just one day after William Green, 27, punched defense attorney Julie Chase in the head.
Corrections officers restrained him after the incident and Chase was taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released.
The Broward Sherriff's Office and the Public Defender's Office were quick to act and also quick to toss blame as to why Green -- a man who has a known history of mental illness -- was not restrained in the first place.
"This issue is about the Sheriff's Office arresting this individual, who is clearly psychotic, and bringing him to the jail and not properly medicating him, and having that individual act out consistent with his psychosis," Assistant Chief Public Defender Gordon Weekes said.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony pushed back, saying the Public Defender's Office asked for a more lax approach to the security procedures during magistrate hearings.
"I understand their concern that having deputies standing close to the inmates or having them wear handcuffs or shackles could imply guilt," Tony said. "They must in turn understand that their requests made it possible for this unusual situation to occur."
Green was back in court Thursday afternoon handcuffed and with a deputy close by. He was ordered to be sent to a Baker Act facility.
Green was originally arrested for allegedly attacking an employee at a mental health hospital.
Chase released a statement Thursday, saying there is still work to be done in improving "the interaction between the criminal courts and the mentally ill."
Below is her full statement:
"As anyone reading this statement probably knows, I was attacked yesterday by an unrestrained detainee in the magistrate courtroom of the Broward County Main Jail. Anyone who has seen the video of the incident may know as much as I do about how it unfolded. I was attacked from behind as I was dealing with a client at the podium. I did not immediately know what had happened; it occurred to me that a piece of ceiling may have fallen. I felt sharp pain, ringing in my ears, and disorientation. I remember the deputies in the room moving to restrain my assailant. I was helped out the way by some of the other detainees and another employee of our office. I have since learned that the man who hit me was suffering from severe mental illness and had, in fact, been arrested for a similar attack on an employee of a mental health crisis center. Magistrate court is often difficult for assistant public defenders, assistant state attorneys, correction personnel and the judge. Obviously, the people who have been arrested are not happy and potentially volatile, but I have never before experienced a blatant act of violence.
"I have been an assistant public defender for more than a decade. I recognized years ago that the criminal justice system is poorly suited to deal with the needs of the mentally ill. I feel confident in saying that many other people who work in criminal court would agree, whether they are defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, or law enforcement officers. During the time I have worked as an assistant public defender, our office and Howard Finkelstein, our elected Public Defender, have placed great priority on improving the interaction between the criminal courts and the mentally ill. I know the criminal courts and many law enforcement agencies have followed our office’s lead, yet there is still a long way to go. I’m sure it is inevitable that sometimes a severely mentally ill person will come in contact with the criminal justice system, but if we do not take steps to prepare for such contact, the system fails in its duty to several parts of our community: 1.) The mentally ill themselves. They and their loved ones deserve access to resources that will improve their condition and keep them safe. 2.) The professionals who work in court, law enforcement, corrections, and treatment facilities. They have a difficult and crucial task to perform, and they deserve to be safe as well. 3.) The residents and visitors of Broward County. Failure to appropriately address mental illness diminishes the quality of our community for everyone. We should always realize that mental illness, like any other serious health problem, can affect any family.
"As one might expect a day after taking a hard blow to the head, I’m experiencing a fair amount of discomfort and pain. At this point, thankfully, it appears the physical consequences of the attack will improve as they should. The often played video of me being hit is, of course, difficult to watch for me and my loved ones. I appreciate the concern and kind wishes expressed to me by colleagues in court, the media, and the community as a whole."