09/12/2006

Miami-Dade public defender seeks end to shackling of juveniles in courts

The Associated Press

MIAMI- The public defender's office is trying to convince local judges and the Florida Bar that forcing child suspects to appear in court in handcuffs and leg shackles is inhumane and should be banned.

"One would never expect that in 2006 we would see daily reminders of when human beings were kept in bondage," said Miami-Dade County Public Defender Bennett H. Brummer.

Brummer's office filed a series of motions Monday with Juvenile Court judges seeking an end to the practice and on Thursday will seek support from the Florida Bar for a statewide prohibition.

At least one judge agreed. "I have always said (juveniles) should not be chained in my courtroom," Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Johnson said.

The state Department of Juvenile Justice said the practice is justified because some youthful suspects are accused of serious crimes.

Broward County's public defender, Howard Finklestein, said he intends to file motions similar to those in Miami-Dade.

"These are children, and we are treating them like wild animals," Finklestein said.

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