A friend of mine is a criminal defense attorney. His job is tough and dirty. He deals with Racism on both sides of the justice scales. Lives hang in the balance on his shoulders. Some of his clients are guilty. His job is to defend them anyway. Some of his clients are set up by police, or enemies, or mistaken identity. His job is to defend them anyway.

The one thing my friend always used to tell his clients when he first started out was “to look good and dress nice in court.” Many of his clients are Black and Latino and — facing unwitting stereotypes and crises of culture in the face — they would show up in court wearing lots of heavy bling, short shorts, baggy pants, do-rags and t-shirts. His clients did not fare well in court. Then one of his clients asked him for his definition of “looking good and dressing nice” and my friend said, “a suit, a tie, leather shoes, pressed shirt, combed hair for men and a dress or a business suit for women….”

“Oh!” — the client interrupted — “You want me to dress White!” My White friend, wondering if he’d been caught in a Racial stereotype or exposed in one, froze. He didn’t know what to say. His client picked up on the uneasiness. “You want me to play nice. You want I should dress like everyone else. The judge. The jury. You. You want I should fit in, right?” “Okay, yeah…” my friend stammered.

“Say that straight up! Cut to it, man. Why make me wonder? This is my life!” From then on my friend began to cut right to the “Dress White” chase when advising clients how to appear in court. My friend was surprised to learn many of his clients were not offended by his dress mandate.

They understood the name of the game was not only one of guilt or innocence — or high fashion — but of fitting in to survive the process and looking like you were a part of the conservative mainstream society sitting in judgment of you. “You will better be treated in court as a defendant if you show respect to the court by matching the taste of the court,” my friend now likes to say after winning many more of his cases with this clothing philosophy for his clients. Some of his male clients even go as far as shaving their heads bald to remove any “threatening dreds” or other hair modifications that fall outside the “mainstream taste.”

Is this “Dressing White” a way to find success in court through deception by intent or is it a natural part of an expected process? Is it Racist to have to “fit in” and “play along” by dressing up “White” in court when, the moment the defendant is back on the street, the culture of clothing returns to the mind and body modification?


  1. I think that’s just the way things operate in the real world. The phrase is a shorthand code that people can understand quickly, rather than a long, drawn out explanation that might not be readily understood.
    It’s not racist to suggest that someone show respect for the court by spending a little extra time to dress up and groom ones appearance. Especially when that court will be judging the defendant’s ability to remain free or be sent to a place that will enforce its own dress code for months or years.
    In today’s society, so many people fail to spend any effort to dress up for any special occassion, that donning a suit and a tie makes someone stand out from the crowd. Most people visiting court don’t bother to dress up, so anyone with a suit or a tie is automatically assumed to be an attorney or some other professional. It gives someone a little edge.
    Look at the dress code posted by the Siskiyou Superior Court in California:

    Proper attire is required in the courtrooms. No shorts, tank tops, tube tops or bare feet are permitted.

    If there wasn’t a problem at some point of people coming to court without shoes, there wouldn’t be a local rule prohibiting it.
    Of course, if the defendant is wearing a suit, but had teardrop tattoos on his eyes or is giving evil eyes to people in the courtroom, improving his dress won’t make a difference. It’s not just dress, but an overall projection of respect and decency that is to be strived for in the courtroom.
    A defendant is smart to project an image of an average hard-working, law abiding citizen, rather than the image of an urban warrior who looks like the guys who cause trouble on the block and strikes fear in the hearts of suburban jurors.
    It’s a fact that people judge other people by their body language and demeanor, so looking like you are a friendly grocery store manager will get someone further than looking like a roughneck dude who is about to crack some heads.
    Just as a cop in uniform is impressive on the stand, a defendant should put on his or her business “uniform” to project an image of stability and innocence.
    People also need to know that most of the “judge shows” they see on daytime television are not the model for court appearances. Loudness and dramatic acting is discouraged.

  2. I think there is something to be said for showing respect to the court. I think psychologically it projects the idea that if one can respect the rules of the court one can respect other rules. How “dressing white” came to mean respect for the court, I won’t pretend to understand. But dressing a certain way may help in other arenas as well. Some people feel a need to dress up when applying for a loan. However, there was a biography on billionaire Richard Branson that showed when he wanted to get a loan and his business partners said to dress up, he said that they shouldn’t because the banks would know they needed the money. They got the loan his way. So I suppose in some cases dressing up could work against you.

  3. Chris- Just because the world is “real,” doesn’t mean it’s ideal or just. It was a “real” world when we had slavery. Many say we have slavery today but it is more hidden. Our thinking is very likely biased from the English language mostly derived from the Proto Indo-European language. Once one buys into the Good, Goth, God, white, might, right, light, black, slack, crack, hack, quack, wack syndrome the words and ideas just sort of roll off the tongue and “we just keep a rollin’ along.” What is “fair,” is not necessarily what the “fair people say.

  4. It’s interesting to think about how I dress for court.
    I dress to show respect for the court and also for the people I’m working with every day.
    I always wear a black jacket, a tie and nice dress slacks.
    However, I don’t wear anything that costs more than $120 all together. I buy my jackets off-the-rack and usually get black Dockers or some other similar wash-and-wear dress pants for court. I don’t wear french-cuff shirts or anything like that either. Usually, I get dress shirts when they are on sale some place.
    I also don’t wear a fancy watch — I used the clock on my phone to keep track of time. Someone who can’t pay their debts doesn’t want to be reminded of their situation when they see an attorney’s expensive Rolex.
    My psychology is to dress nicely, but not to dress in such a way that creates a barrier to me and the defendants I have to work with the resolve cases.
    They are in tough financial times and usually want someone who can understand where they are coming from. They want someone who doesn’t think they are bad because they’ve run into financial problems.
    I dress appropriately for court, but I also dress in such a way that I would fit in with the majority of people anywhere in my area so that they will view me as being someone they can work with, instead of someone they will have to battle against.
    I’ve had people mention that I’m easier to work with than other people they’ve dealt with in the past — some of it is just because I can be seen as someone they’d associate with in every day life, rather than someone who a snob or elitist.

  5. Hi Fred,
    I don’t think judges care if someone isn’t dressed nicely or not, or if they are in an orange jumpsuit. Judges do care if you fail to show respect to the court and will sanction people for swearing or otherwise disturbing the courtroom.
    When a criminal defendant is in front of a jury, the people making the decisions of fact (did this guy in front of us do the crime?), are bringing in their own experiences from their own lives. If everyone in their neighborhood who causes problems dresses a certain way, it is always good to dress another way.
    Just because one dresses a certain way doesn’t mean anything about their conduct, but it does make it easier for a juror to link the defendant to the conduct alleged. Just as most people give a police officer the benefit of the doubt, someone dressed in an intimidating way might remove any benefits of the doubt.
    It would be foolish to not try to appeal to jurors by dressing the way successful people who live law abiding lives dress and acting the way they act.
    Jurors listen to the facts, but they stitch them together using their own experiences to make decisions of guilt or innocence.
    From Psychology in the Jury Room:

    The jurors had paid attention to what was presented—collectively, the jury panels accurately recalled 93 percent of the facts in the case—but had found it inadequate to make sense of what had occurred.
    The jurors, in effect, were writing stories instead of analyzing details. They were spinning threads to connect the disconnected points of evidence into a whole script that was coherent in terms of their own experience.
    So they listened to the evidence and the arguments, but they cast those presentations in terms of what they knew—or thought they did.
    One point in the case seemed to illustrate this especially well.
    The murder was the result of a stabbing in the parking lot of a bar in which, earlier on the night of the killing, the defendant and the victim had argued heatedly.
    From courtroom testimony, it was not clear whether the defendant had returned to his home to get the lethal knife after the argument or if he had it when he first entered the bar.
    Jurors of conventional upper middle class backgrounds were highly likely to assume the defendant had gone home to pick up the knife, which would indicate premeditation and hence a verdict of guilty.
    The jurors were extrapolating from the world as they knew it; bankers, stockbrokers, and suchlike usually do not pack weapons when they go out for some social drinking.
    However, working-class jurors were far more likely to accept that the defendant would carry a knife as a matter of course, and would more easily believe that the stabbing could be unpremeditated, self-defense, or even accidental.

    If you have a “tear drop” tattoo or are wearing “bling bling,” you’re presenting an image that might be associated with problems in the area. While those things don’t mean one is guilty of anything, they can be intimidating to members of the jury. If you are a defendant, you’d rather have them think of you as being one of the good guys, rather than someone who causes them problems.
    From INKEDblog:

    Originally, in North America, the teardrop meant that the wearer had committed at least one murder. In some places, it meant that the wearer had committed a murder in jail. This tattoo then had the power to warn away other convicts, and establish an image for the wearer, of self-defense that is imperative in the prison system.

    Even if the tattoo has another meaning — it is in memory of people who have died while the wearing was in prison — the it’s not worth taking the risk that the tattoo (or whatever else the person might bring with them to court) might work its way into the narrative that is being written in the juror’s mind.
    If someone thinks the tattoo means you have killed in the past, it isn’t unreasonable for them to listen to the prosecutor, police and other witnesses and conclude you are capable of doing the same thing.
    Of course, that just means that your attorney has to work harder to try to raise reasonable doubts. It’s better to have the head start that “cleaning up” does for someone.
    It might not be fair, but it’s the way people’s minds work.

  6. Chris —
    It’s interesting to watch the court shows like “Judge Judy.” She will reprimand a White person for not dressing appropriately for court, but she won’t do the same with a Black or Latino person even if they are in “hoochie mama” or “street thug” mode.
    Is she being Racist or is she just playing to the memes that have already played out before her?

  7. Dave —
    What was most interesting to me was that a young Black man thought that dressing for court meant “Dressing White” instead of just “wearing your best clothes.”
    There is obviously a cultural disconnect between the meaning of “appropriate dress for court” and that difference is not always made clear to the minority by the power majority.
    The majority of people in prison and jail are of color compared to ratios against the general national population while White inmates are barely a blip on the incarceration scene. Is that inequality by chance or by design?
    The majority power — The White Power, if you will — rules the courts and if you want to play the game you need to play by the rules, both spoken and unspoken, in order to be competitive in the game of justice.

  8. Hi David,
    The cases that are before “Judge Judy” and similar shows are carefully chosen for their ability to bring out strange lawsuits between family members, friends or landlords. I know there are runners where I practice law that scour small claims court files looking for cases that could be featured on the program.
    I haven’t watched the programs more than a few minutes because they aren’t that interesting to me. (I’m also at work when they air). I wonder why Judge Judy would reprimand one person, but not another? But, since the “judge shows” are television, people could be influenced to act and dress certain ways by the producers.
    I’d assume it’s part of the meme of the audience that is watching the show and that is buying the products advertised during breaks.
    I was in a Northern Indiana court once when someone went in front of the judge and told the judge he didn’t believe the court was valid and that he would not answer to an invalid court. The guy struck me as being a militia type who didn’t believe in the government.
    The judge looked at the defendant in disbelief and asked the defendant to state his name again.
    The defendant repeated that he would not answer any questions of an invalid court.
    The judge had the courtroom bailiff call for a sheriff’s deputy and told the defendant he could avoid being found in contempt if he’d answer questions.
    The defendant stated that same thing he had said earlier: He wasn’t going to answer questions from an invalid court.
    The guy ended up being thrown into the county jail over night for contempt of court because he failed to answer the judge after being warned and given a reasonable amount of time to comply with the court.
    The guy wasn’t thrown into jail because he was rich or poor, white or black, etc. It was because he wasn’t respectful.

  9. Perhaps but it could also be because they knew his family. They weren’t exactly poor. Or perhaps it was his charisma or personal determination. The story said he had started his own businesses from early childhood.
    But the interesting thing that the strategy. Knowing that a lot of people that need loans will dress up to get a loan because they needed the money which they may not be able to pay back, he dressed against that stereotype to get the loan.

  10. Chris —
    How does one reconcile the visual prejudice of a criminal defendant appearing in court wearing a bright orange jumpsuit with “Inmate” printed across the back?
    I know there are some defendants that are indigent and cannot afford to wear anything else but their prison blues in court. Isn’t that kind of outfit highly prejudicial in a criminal case?
    Are there public funds available for indigent defendants to use to buy “court clothes” and — if so — I wonder who gets to decide the style of clothing worn?

  11. A S —
    I hope too many people don’t take Branson’s advice! I think for most people it is better to dress up to meet the dress code of the bank than to go in wearing street clothes and hoping to get a loan out of the exchange of values.

  12. Hi David,
    I assume that there’s always some provision for the defendant to wear civilian clothes while in the custody of the state if they are to go before a jury. I don’t know if there’s a fund for prisoner’s clothes, but I assume that a relative would spring for a suit for the defendant, even if the relative had to run to the nearest Goodwill store to get something nice, but second-hand.
    Here’s a Supreme Court case I found while doing a fast and dirty search that discusses the issues in dicta. I haven’t “Shepardized” it, so it might or might not be good law:

    Central to the right to a fair trial, guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, is the principle that “one accused of a crime is entitled to have his guilt or innocence determined solely on the basis of the evidence introduced at trial, and not on grounds of official suspicion, indictment, continued custody, or other circumstances not adduced as proof at trial.” Taylor v. Kentucky, 436 U.S. 478, 485 (1978).
    This does not mean, however, that every practice tending to single out the accused from everyone else in the courtroom must be struck down.
    Recognizing that jurors are quite aware that the defendant appearing before them did not arrive there by choice or happenstance, we have never tried, and could never hope, to eliminate from trial procedures every reminder that the State has chosen to marshal its resources against a defendant to punish him for allegedly criminal conduct.
    To guarantee a defendant’s due process rights under ordinary circumstances, our legal system has instead placed primary reliance on the adversary system and the presumption of innocence.
    When defense counsel vigorously represents his client’s interests and the trial judge [475 U.S. 560, 568] assiduously works to impress jurors with the need to presume the defendant’s innocence, we have trusted that a fair result can be obtained.
    Our faith in the adversary system and in jurors’ capacity to adhere to the trial judge’s instructions has never been absolute, however.
    We have recognized that certain practices pose such a threat to the “fairness of the factfinding process” that they must be subjected to “close judicial scrutiny.” Estelle v. Williams, 425 U.S. 501, 503 -504 (1976).
    Thus, in Estelle v. Williams, we noted that where a defendant is forced to wear prison clothes when appearing before the jury, “the constant reminder of the accused’s condition implicit in such distinctive, identifiable attire may affect a juror’s judgment.” Id., at 504-505.
    Since no “essential state policy” is served by compelling a defendant to dress in this manner, id., at 505, this Court went no further and concluded that the practice is unconstitutional.

    This close scrutiny of inherently prejudicial practices has not always been fatal, however.
    In Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337 (1970), the Court emphasized that a defendant may be prejudiced if he appears before the jury bound and gagged.
    “Not only is it possible that the sight of shackles and gags might have a significant effect on the jury’s feelings about the defendant, but the use of this technique is itself something of an affront to the very dignity and decorum of judicial proceedings that the judge is seeking to uphold.” Id., at 344.
    Yet the Court nonetheless observed that in certain extreme situations, “binding and gagging might possibly be the fairest and most reasonable way to handle” a particularly obstreperous and disruptive defendant. Ibid.

    HOLBROOK v. FLYNN, 475 U.S. 560 (1986)
    Respect is a consideration and if a prisoner can’t keep quiet, the Court suggests that “binding and gagging” might be a fair and reasonable way to handle a defendant.
    I assume defendants who appear in prison clothes at trial don’t care about their appearance or didn’t ask their relatives or attorneys to bring a suit so they could change.

  13. Chris —
    You’ll have to explain to us what “Shepardized” means!
    I am most concerned about the indigent defendant without family or anyone to care. They have no bail money. No way out. They’re stuck in an orange jumpsuit with their life on the line.

  14. I should have brought it up in the last comment, but the Court also recognizes that dress plays a role in the way jurors make decisions:

    “(T)he constant reminder of the accused’s condition implicit in such distinctive, identifiable attire may affect a juror’s judgment.”

    If a prison jump suit can influence jurors, wearing a “street uniform” that is distinctive and identifiable as being associated with “bad people” might be a constant reminder of the accused’s implicit condition and may be something that unconsciously influences jurors.
    Defendants want to jury to have doubts — don’t give them any reason to lose even one doubt that might tip the scale in your favor.

  15. Hi David,
    I could have said West’s “Key Cite” TM as well. 😉
    Here’s how Wikipedia explains “Shepard’s Citations.”

    In legal research, Shepard’s Citations is the best-known citator, a list of all the authorities cited by a particular case. The name derives from a legal service begun by Frank Shepard (1848-1900) in 1873, when Shepard began publishing these lists in a series of books indexed to different jurisdictions.
    While print versions remain in use, legal research websites such as LexisNexis and Westlaw now permit users to look up citations online, thereby allowing researchers to see if a case has been overturned or reconfirmed by later cases. The electronic versions have the added benefit of being updated quickly after new cases are decided. Although the name is trademarked, it is used somewhat generically by legal professionals to describe citators in general.

  16. I think it was just a billiant move that worked for him because he was able to size up the people at the bank at that particular time and that most people would fail miserably if they attempted to do the same.

  17. Dave —
    From the Spring 2004 “Journal of Quantitative Criminology:”

    We find that African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans receive relatively harsher sentences than whites and that these differentials are only partly explained by offense-related characteristics. We interpret our findings in light of attribution, uncertainty avoidance, and conflict theories.

    I also think we need to consider access to mobility when it comes to traffic court. Poorer urban core communities are less likely to own cars and they public transportation. It makes more sense to me that the traditionally wealthier power majority would be better represented in traffic court than in criminal court because access to the means of violating the law is easier to afford.

  18. Had his skin color been different, I’m sure he would have read that and dressed accordingly and got the loan anyway, even if they would have made him jump through more hoops.
    I wonder though if the “white” look limited to the western cultures. There seems to be a number of Asian tourists that have colored contacts which make their eyes green or blue some of whom dye their hair blonde or red and I have heard of plastic surgery to enlarge the eyes… but that could be from wanting to look like certain anime characters.

  19. Hi A S!
    Yes, the surgery to change Asian features is to “look White.” There are Korean women in Los Angeles who go see a doctor to have their eyes “fixed” and their noses made less wide and they have their cheekbones shaved down so they will look more like the preferred Western Aesthetic.
    Oprah wore green contacts for a time until she was accused of hating her Race by Black radicals.
    I had one beautiful Black woman friend who wore purple contacts because she didn’t like how dark her irises were. She used to say “Light went in and never came out!”

  20. Hi David,
    Here’s a way that one jurisdiction handles getting court clothing to prisoners. Notice that they have a dress code and won’t pass along certain clothes to prisoners for their court appearances.
    From the Harris Co. Texas Sheriff’s Office:

    Court Clothing
    Court clothing drop off
    Court clothing will be accepted no more than two days before the inmate’s scheduled court date. The inmate’s SPN is required to drop off court clothing. No tennis shoes, underwear or t-shirts will be accepted as court clothes. Only one set of court clothing will be stored at a time. If a second set is brought for the inmate, the first must be picked up (See court clothing pick up). Court clothing for all inmates may be brought to the third floor of the Inmate Processing Center located at 1201 Commerce Street, Sunday through Thursday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
    Court clothing pick up
    Court clothing may be released to the same person who left it or any other person the inmate authorizes to receive it. If the person picking up the clothing is not the same person who left it, the inmate must complete a second request form. Court clothes may be picked up at 1201 Commerce, third floor, 7 days a week, from 6:00 AM to 9:30 PM.

    I assume if someone didn’t have any family or means to get clothing, they could always ask someone from the prison ministries or other organizations that often visit the jail to help prisoners to obtain a suit from the Salvation Army or Goodwill to wear at trial.
    I also assume that the prisoner’s attorney (private or court-appointed) would want to make sure that the prisoner had a suit to wear to trial.

  21. Now that’s a wild story, Dave!
    I guess there will always be lousy people who try nerves and test determination for the benefit of the rest of us even though they are perceived as troublemakers.

  22. I hope there is help for indigent prisoners, Chris.
    My feeling is, especially in the South, public defenders are overworked and underpaid and the last thing on their mind is what their client is wearing in court.

  23. Hi David,
    Here’s an Illinois case about the clothing issue: Illinois v. Mazar, No. 1-00-3235 (2002, Nunc Pro Tunc Aug. 6, 2001).
    Here are the relevant facts concerning the clothing:

    Prior to defendant’s trial, on July 26, 2000, defendant elected to proceed pro se.
    The trial court thoroughly admonished defendant with respect to the perils of doing so and specifically stated that it would not appoint standby counsel.
    Thereafter, defendant was admonished several more times about the perils, but persisted in proceeding pro se.
    On August 1, at another pretrial hearing, the trial court noted that defendant was dressed in jail clothes. Defendant stated that that was okay. When told that he could be provided with civilian clothing, defendant stated that that was a “nice offer. I accept, if it happens.”
    Again, on August 22, the issue of defendant’s clothing arose.
    At that time, before a different judge, defendant indicated that another judge had advised him that “they” would get him clothes, to which defendant had responded that that was a generous offer and he would accept it if true.
    The court then requested that the public defender obtain civilian clothing for defendant, which he agreed to do.
    On August 24, just prior to commencement of defendant’s trial, defendant requested appointment of standby counsel.
    After indicating the problems inherent with appointment of standby counsel, the court, relying on a United States Supreme Court decision, declined defendant’s “eleventh hour” request for appointment of standby counsel.
    At this time, defendant also objected to the fact that he had to wear prison clothes.
    Defendant had been provided a blue shirt, a blue shirt coat, and a blue polka dot tie by the public defender’s office.
    However, the public defender did not have pants to fit defendant and he was wearing khaki pants issued by the Department of Corrections.
    Apparently, the prison markings on the pants were only visible if defendant stood.
    The trial court indicated that neither it, the State, nor the public defender’s office was constitutionally required to supply defendant with civilian clothing.
    The court suggested that at the lunch break, prior to selection of the jury, that defendant turn his pants inside out. Defendant followed this suggestion and proceeded to trial in this manner.

    The court’s holding is in bold after the discussion of the law:

    Under Estelle v. Williams, 425 U.S. 501, 504-05, 48 L. Ed. 2d 126, 130-31, 96 S. Ct. 1691, 1693 (1976), “the State cannot compel a defendant to stand trial before a jury dressed in identifiable prison clothing.” People v. Wilder, 325 Ill. App. 3d 987, 996, 760 N.E.2d 496 (2001).
    “However, the right not to be tried in jail clothing is, like many other rights of criminal defendants, subject to harmless-error analysis.” People v. Steinmetz, 287 Ill. App. 3d 1, 6-7, 678 N.E.2d 89 (1997), citing Estelle, 425 U.S. at 506, 48 L. Ed. 2d at 131-32, 96 S. Ct. at 1694. See also People v. Medley, 111 Ill. App. 3d 444, 448, 444 N.E.2d 269 (1983) (finding that even if it was error to require the defendant to appear in prison clothing, the error was harmless); People v. Wilkes, 108 Ill. App. 3d 460, 467-68, 438 N.E.2d 1385 (1982) (finding that requiring the defendant to wear an orange jail uniform was harmless error).
    In determining whether requiring a defendant to wear identifiable prison clothing constitutes harmless error, three approaches are applicable:
    ” ‘(1) Focusing on the error to determine whether it might have contributed to the conviction [citation]; (2) Examining the other evidence in the case to see if overwhelming evidence supports the conviction [citation]; (3) Determining whether the error is merely cumulative or duplicates properly admitted evidence [citation.] ‘ [Citation].” Wilkes, 108 Ill. App. 3d at 467.
    See also Medley, 111 Ill. App. 3d at 448. Each approach need not be applied nor satisfied. See Wilkes, 108 Ill. App. 3d at 467 (applying only the first and third approaches).
    In the instant case, defendant must first demonstrate that the clothing he was wearing was “identifiable prison clothing.”
    Although he relies on the trial court’s comment, we do not find this comment determinative.
    The comment does not demonstrate, with certainty, that the clothing was in fact identifiable as prison attire. The comment merely sets forth the trial court’s opinion that, assuming defendant’s clothes were identifiable as prison clothing, there was no problem with the jury seeing them.
    Moreover, the court specifically stated that defendant’s pants looked like Dockers. These are common men’s pants worn every day.
    Clearly, if the pants looked liked Dockers to the trial court, the court would not be under the belief, at the same time, that the pants were identifiable prison clothing.
    Thus, the trial court’s comment does not support defendant’s argument.
    While there were no photographs taken of defendant’s attire to aid us in reviewing this issue (United States v. Forrest, 623 F.2d 1107, 1116 (5th Cir. 1980) (trial court ordered a photograph of the defendant upon his objection to wearing prison clothing before the jury to facilitate review)), it would not appear that defendant’s pants or heelless shoes would identify defendant’s outfit as prison issued. See Medley, 111 Ill. App. 3d at 448 (it was not error for the trial judge to require the defendant to appear before the jury in jail issued clothes consisting of pale green pants and a pullover shirt similar to “scrubs” because there was nothing to identify the outfit as jail issued).
    Moreover, it does not appear that the type of clothing worn by defendant was clothing unique to prisons, particularly given the fact that defendant was wearing a dress shirt, a tie, and a jacket. See People v. Partee, 157 Ill. App. 3d 231, 254-55, 511 N.E.2d 1165 (1987) (prison issued jogging suit could not be considered identifiable jail clothing–“It is not clothing unique to prison institutions” and, therefore, the defendant could not demonstrate it was “identifiable prison clothing”).
    Additionally, there were no markings on the inside-out pants to identify them as prison clothing. See Wilkes, 108 Ill. App. 3d at 467 (trial court erred in permitting the defendant to appear before the jury dressed in bright orange coveralls with the word “Jail” stenciled across the back).
    Although defendant’s attire may have been a bit unusual, there is no evidence that the jury saw his attire as prison clothing, nor is there any evidence that defendant’s attire adversely affected the jury.
    We therefore find that defendant was not denied his right to a fair trial because he was required to appear in khaki colored pants turned inside out and with heelless shoes. See also Forrest, 623 F.2d at 1116 (finding there was no error in requiring the defendant to appear before the jury in khaki pants with a four digit black laundry mark stenciled twice on the seat of the pants; the court noted that “it [was] extremely unlikely that the laundry numbers, even assuming they were noticed by the jurors, would have identified the otherwise plain khaki pants as prison clothing” and noting that it was “confident that appellant’s dress did not ‘badge him as a criminal in the jury’s eyes, as in the case of prison uniforms’ [Citation.]”); United States v. Dawson, 563 F.2d 149, 150-51 (5th Cir. 1977) (finding that plain khaki clothing worn by the defendant did not mark him as a prisoner; khaki shirt and pants “did not appear to be the usual prison garb”); Wright v. Texas, 415 F. Supp. 5, 7 (E.D. Tex. 1975) (finding that blue overalls worn by the defendant, although clearly distinguishing him from every one else in the courtroom, were not the type of clothes “typical of and recognizable as ‘jail clothes’ “); Klingler v. Erickson, 328 F. Supp. 674, 676 (S.D. S.D. 1971) (finding that the defendant failed to demonstrate that any of the jurors knew he was in fact in prison clothing where the defendant was wearing a prison issued gray shirt, gray jacket and gray pants, and also finding that there was no evidence that the jury was adversely affected by the defendant’s attire).
    Even assuming there was error here, we conclude that it was harmless. There is no evidence that defendant’s attire contributed to his conviction. Moreover, the evidence of defendant’s guilt was overwhelming.

    Id. Emphasis added. Footnotes omitted.

  24. Chris —
    If I had been that defendant, I would have stood and walked around and shown the jury my “prison clothes” and tell them that the court failed to keep its promise to me in providing me appropriate clothing for the trial and that it was prejudicial to make me look silly by turning my pants inside out even if they realized it or not.
    Then I’d open a window and yell outside, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
    I’ve never understood how a person could choose to defend himself/herself in court even if the court tells you over and over again the perils because, as a non-lawyer, you could never fully understand the perils unless you attended law school!

  25. What happens if you ride the train to court in your vomit pants?

    The newer busses and trains, however, cleverly use an industrial strength “fabric” that conceals most disgusting human remnants and provides no visual forewarning before you sit and, therefore, Vomit Pants become the required uniform of the day to avoid messing your good clothes in the muddle of others.

    Would that prejudice the jury?

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