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Wednesday 7 June 2023 Dublin: 9°C
# pound of flesh
US judge makes defendants give blood or face going to jail
An ethics complaint has been lodged against Judge Marvin Wiggins.

Southern Poverty Law Center / YouTube

A JUDGE IN the United States has faced criticism after telling defendants in his court to donate blood or face prison.

In a recording taken in the court of Perry County Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins on 17 September, he is heard offering the alternative method of payment to those on trial.

“There’s a blood drive outside and if you do not have any money and you don’t want to go to jail, as an option to pay it, you can give blood today,” he said.

In a video posted to YouTube by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), Judge Wiggins goes on to say:

So, if you do not have any money and you don’t want to go to jail, consider giving blood today and bring your receipt back or the sheriff has plenty of handcuffs for those who do not have the money.

In a statement the centre hits out at what it calls a, “shocking disregard for poor people overloaded with court debt, unable to pay”, and says that it has now lodged an ethics complaint.

“People who couldn’t pay their court debt with cash literally paid with their blood,” said its staff attorney Sara Zampierin, “This is a shocking disregard for not only judicial eithics but for the constitutional rights of defendants.”

Those in court were there on charges ranging from hunting violations to assault.

More than 500 defendants in criminal cases were contacted and told to attend the mass hearing.

marvin wiggins AP / Dave Martin Judge Marvin Wiggins (right) in 2013 AP / Dave Martin / Dave Martin

According to the SPLC, a person in Alabama cannot be sentenced to jail over a debt they cannot pay.

Those who met the Judge’s request for blood did not receive any discount to the fines they were facing.

The Judicial Inquiry Commission is currently looking into the incident and Wiggins could potentially have to answer ethics charges.

LifeSouth, the blood bank the court ordered defendants to give samples to, discarded almost all donations from court attendees as the incentive offered to them was potentially inappropriate.

Read: American accused of $14.5 million swindle once set up shop in Dublin

Also: US companies keep $2.1 trillion profits in overseas tax havens (and Ireland has its fair share)

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