A Miami family is furious that a judge berated their chronically ill relative who died days after an April 15 courtroom bond hearing.
Sandra Twiggs, a 59-year-old wheelchair-bound woman, was in court over a domestic dispute. She had an argument with her 19-year-old daughter about a fan, CBS News Miami reported.
The family believed that the courtroom appearance damaged Twiggs’ poor health. “When she came home from being in there she was never the same,” said Carolyn Porter, Twiggs’ goddaughter.
Twiggs, who is Black, had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a progressive lung ailment that affects breathing. A video captured Broward Circuit Court Judge Merrilee Ehrlich getting angry with Twiggs and yelling at her when she tried to explain her disorder and breathing treatments.
The judge, who had a reputation for angry outbursts at litigants, is heard screaming, “Ma’am, I’m not here to talk to you about your breathing treatment!” Ultimately, she released Twiggs without bond for the domestic violence charge. But the damage was already done, according to the family.
The woman’s sister, Anna Lee Twiggs, recalled that her ill sibling was upset when she returned home from the hearing.
“Anna, they treated me like a dog in the courthouse,” she remembered her sister saying. “They didn’t let me talk. The judge was so cruel. I needed a treatment and she (Twiggs) just kept on gasping for air as she was telling me this and she was so devastated.”
Ehrlich’s boss, Broward Chief Administrative Judge Jack Tuter, was bothered by her courtroom behavior, and he planned to apologize to the family.
“I am saddened and disappointed in the way Judge Ehrlich behaved on the video,” he said. “Her behavior cannot be condoned.”
Ehrlich, who had planned to retire in the summer, reportedly resign her position.