Milgram Experiment in Court

I will start off by describing the Milgram Experiment. This is an hallmark case study in psychology, in 1963 Stanley Milgram a psychologist at Yale conducted an experiment to understand the connect people have between obedience to authority and their conscience.

The basics of this experiment:

Use confederates as the person to be shocked and the person supervising the subject. A confederate is a person that is privy to the experiment.

The lab consists of two rooms separated by a one way window or mirror. In one room will be a fake machine that resembles the controls to a device that administers an electric charge. One of the controls allows the user to change the intensity of the charge and the other control enables the shock to be administered. There is panel with 4 lights labeled A, B, C and D. This panel illuminates the person’s (a confederate) answer, that person will be in the other room and can be seen through the one way window. In the subject’s room there will also be a supervisor (a confederate). The other room will have the person who will be wired with fake electrodes.

The experiment proceeds by the subject being told that the person in the other room is wired to electrodes controlled by the shock device. The subject will ask the person questions and the response will show up on the light bar. If the person gives a wrong answer, the subject will shock the person. After shocking the person, the subject will raise the level of the shock to be administered. The levels of the intensity are labelled ‘low’ and graduate up to ‘extremely dangerous’.

A Texas judge Gallagher was presiding over a trial of Morris. Morris the defendant was uncooperative and not complying to the judge’s orders. The defendant was fitted with an electric shock ankle belts, the court allows the use of shock vest when the defendant is a flight risk or a risk to others.

When the defendant was asked to submit his plea, the defendant refused, the judge ordered the bailiff to shock him. The judge again requested him to enter his plea and he refused. The judge had the bailiff administer another shock.

The judge ordered several shocks. The defendant was too scared to return to the courtroom and he was not present for the remainder of the trial. He alleged that he was being tortured.

The Texas Eighth Court of Appeals handed down a ruling addressing the judge’s actions. They ruled that judges are not permitted to shock defendants whom won’t answer questions or don’t follow the court’s rules of decorum.


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