Courtroom, U.S. Courthouse, Toledo, Ohio
Getty Images

Florida Judge Steps Down After Being Recorded Berating 59-Year-Old Disabled Woman Who Later Died

The family of Sandra Faye Twiggs believe that her death is connected to her treatment in court.


A Florida judge has stepped down after video surfaced of a her ruthlessly berating a chronically ill disabled woman who later died, following her release from jail.  During a preliminary hearing last Sunday (April 15), Broward County Circuit Judge Merrilee Ehrlich, repeatedly scolded Sandra Faye Twiggs, a 59-year-old mother who was in a wheelchair and was arrested on a misdemeanor charge after a disagreement with her 19-year-old daughter.

Twiggs, had no criminal history and battled chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, along with asthma. She was arrested and booked on a domestic violence charge on April 13, for reportedly scratching her daughter during a disagreement. Her lawyer said that the incident was a misunderstanding.

In the court recording, Ehrlich begins yelling at Twiggs while asking questions that she stumbles to answer. “Excuse me! Don't say anything beyond what I am asking you!" Ehrlich warns.

Growing more exasperated, Ehrlich continues to lash out at Twiggs, who appears frail and begins coughing during the court appearance. “Ma’am do you need water? Just nod your head,” she orders before telling someone in the court to get her water, but interrupts Twiggs when she attempts to inform her of her health ailments. “Ma'am, I am not here to talk to you about your breathing treatments!”

Twiggs' daughter found her dead in her bed a day after she was released from jail.

In a letter to Broward County’s chief judge, public defender Howard Finkelstein, lambasted Ehrlich’ for displaying “aggressive and tyrannical behavior” that “revealed her lack of emotional fitness to sit on the bench.”

“She raised her voice to many defendants, berated the attorneys, and was impatient and exasperated during the proceedings,” Finkelstein wrote. “Her handling of two misdemeanor cases at first appearance on Sunday, April 15 was shocking and an embarrassment to Broward County.”

Amid mounting scrutiny, Broward Chief Administrative Judge Jack Tuter told Ehrlich “not to return to the courthouse” due to her treatment of Twiggs. Ehrlich is due to retire on June 30.

According to the Miami Herald, Twiggs had trouble getting her medicine in jail and came home “starving, dizzy and borderline breathless.”

“My mom is gone and there is nothing I can do about it. I’m now a teenager who will have to bury her mother, ” Michelle Ballard, her daughter, told the Herald.

Twiggs was so “devastated” by the jail treatment that she could barely speak, a friend said.

“They treated me so bad, all I wanted was some medical attention,” her sister, Anna Twiggs, recalled Twiggs saying.

The family believes that the judge's treatment, and the night in jail, contributed to Twiggs' death.

See footage of the court hearing and the family's reaction below.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Getty Images

Former Chicago Cop Jason Van Dyke Sentenced For Killing Laquan McDonald

Former Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, could end up serving just over three years in prison for killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke was sentenced to 81 months Friday (Jan. 18), and according to the Chicago Tribune , the former officer is eligible to receive credit for good behavior.

Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan had to decide between sentencing Van Dyke for second-degree murder or aggravated battery, the latter of which carried a mandatory minimum of six years in prison, the Tribune reports. Gaughan decided that it made more sense to sentence Van Dyke for murder, which makes him eligible for early release.

McDonald was shot to death in 2014. At the time, authorities claimed that the teen was behaving erratically while carrying a small knife. The police department waited 13 months to release video of the shooting. In the footage, McDonald is seen walking away from the cops as Van Dyke opens fire, shooting him 16 times. Van Dyke, a 14-year veteran of the CPD, was arrested and quickly released on bond the day that the video was made public. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and more than a dozen charges of aggravated battery last October.

Darren O'Brien, Van Dyke’s lawyer, pushed for sentencing “leniency,” due in part to his client’s clean criminal record. Depicting O’Brien as the victim, Van Dyke stated that his client feared for his life when he killed McDonald.

“He didn’t start the confrontation,” O’Brien said. “He reacted to what Mr. McDonald did..Everything that happened was set in motion by Mr. McDonald.”

Gaughan called the court case a tragedy for families from both parties. “It’s just so senseless that these acts occur because you can see the pain on both sides. This is a tragedy for both sides."

Van Dyke's sentence came a day after a Cook County judge acquitted three CPD officers charged with covering up the shooting.

Continue Reading
Rep. Maxine Waters meets with CBS Vice President of News and Executive Director of Staff Development and Diversity, Kim Goodwin, and CBS Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief, Christopher Isham, on Capitol Hill. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Waters Office)

Maxine Waters Meets With CBS To Discuss Media Diversity And Inclusion

California Rep. Maxine Waters met with CBS' Vice President of News and Executive Director of Staff Development and Diversity to discuss the lack of media diversity and inclusion within the media empire.

Their meeting steemed from the network's recent release of their predominately clear  team for the coverage of the 2020 presidential election. Comprised of 4 white producers, 5 white-passing reporters and 3 journalists of color, though the 2020 campaigns reporting staff does not have any black anchors.

It's Official: The @CBSNews 2020 Election Team has assembled!

— Ben Mitchell (@bfmitchell) January 11, 2019

Waters, like other prominent speakers in the black community, have discussed their reluctance to embrace the staff citing issues with who will tackle the roles that racism will play in elections and the role racism has been playing in the United States. Taking the issues directly to the source, the congresswomen had a discussion with the higher up's to talk redirection.

“The CBS representatives accepted full responsibility and understood the troubling optics-- and subsequent public backlash -- that occurred as a result of the rollout of their 2020 presidential election team. CBS admitted that the initial 2020 campaign team did not reflect the diversity that the company had committed to; assured me that it will not happen again; and revealed that in the coming months they will unveil a more diverse and inclusive slate of African American journalists and journalists from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences,"  Waters said in a press statement.

"They also identified key individuals in Washington, D.C. and New York City, NY whom they have brought onto their team to fulfill this mission and ensure their news organization reflects the diversity of the country and the communities who will most certainly be engaged in the 2020 elections."

The 43rd district representative has vowed to hold CBS accountable for their diversity issues and is dedicated to working alongside her colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus.

Continue Reading

Louisville International Airport To Be Renamed After Muhammad Ali

Louisville, Kentucky's hometown hero will have an airport named after him.

Mayor Greg Fischer announced Wednesday (Jan. 16) that the Louisville International Airport will be renamed after Muhammad Ali.

"Muhammad Ali belonged to the world, but he only had one hometown, and fortunately, that is our great city of Louisville," Fischer said.

"Muhammad became one of the most well-known people to ever walk the earth and has left a legacy of humanitarianism and athleticism that has inspired billions of people."

The city is hoping to finalize the renaming of the Louisville International Airport to the Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport by June. The news was shared a day before the two year anniversary of Ali's 2016 death. Ali would've been 77.

Officials with the Louisville airport are currently working on receiving approval from Ali's family, however, they say an agreement is near. The decision for the rename to hopefully increase tourism.

"It is important that we, as a city, further champion The Champ's legacy," the mayor added. "And the airport renaming is a wonderful next step."

Continue Reading

Top Stories