The Craziest Courtroom Outbursts Ever

The courtroom can be a volatile place sometimes. Lives are often at stake, justice and closure are sought and sometimes denied, and greatest fears are confronted. Sometimes all it takes is the wrong combination of people, a particularly unpopular verdict, a particularly delicate nerve being struck, or an encounter with evil incarnate before all manner of decorum is thrown into the hallway and chaos erupts. Whether you're a notorious cult leader, a grieving parent, a hapless public defender, or a seasoned adjudicator with a particularly bad case of the Mondays, no one's immune to the seething pandemonium of the courtroom, constantly on the verge of boiling over and blowing the doors open for the circus to march on through. The craziest outbursts are just a misplaced glance or unwelcome comment away, and these are just a few of them.

Judge lays the smackdown on a public defender

The impartiality of the judge's realm is clearly not always easy to uphold. Judges are people, too, and people are fallible beings. Sometimes their sympathy or disgust is all too apparent, sometimes they get cranky, sometimes they lose their cool. And on some rare occasions, they act like they've just grabbed the mic at friggin' WrestleMania.

During a 2014 hearing, Florida judge John C. Murphy got into a bit of a tiff with assistant public defender Andrew Weinstock over Weinstock's refusal to waive his client's right to a fast trial. There was talk of an "emergency created by the state" from Weinstock, and Murphy's patience started to wear thin. Things escalated, and the exchange culminated with the judge saying "If you wanna fight, let's just go out back and I'll beat your a**."

The men walked out into a hallway off-camera to wave their gavels at each other some more, and could be heard taunting and shouting and grappling. The judge emerged from the hallway, but Weinstock, having obviously smelled what Murphy was cooking, did not. The crowd in the courtroom was weirdly clued in on this absurd Jerry Springer-esque macho spectacle and applauded the judge's return to his podium like a medieval king retaining his throne. According to Florida Today, Murphy took a leave of absence after the scuffle and underwent anger management counseling, and public defenders around the state probably started to sleep a little more soundly at night.

Public defender sucker-punched by his own client

You really have to doff your cap to public defenders. Aside from the usual suspects, like underpaid social workers and nurses and hapless substitute teachers being thrown in front of particularly bloodthirsty high school classes, there can't be many professions out there more thankless. And it's not just Better Call Saul that suggests this.

It was 2008, and prisoner Peter Hafer — who was facing burglary charges in a K-Mart robbery a few months prior — was not happy with public defender Doug Crickmer's service. Poor, oblivious Crickmer was in the process of reminding the court that it was not his choice to make when he was socked by Hafer out of nowhere, who continued to lay into him on the ground before being restrained.

Crickmer's response was remarkably level-headed and he didn't press charges, but the assault did land Hafer six months in jail for contempt of court. And just in case this wasn't proof enough that Hafer might not be such a swell guy, he pleaded guilty to possession of stolen firearms in 2010 and was a suspect in a related murder case as recently as 2017. Public defenders, beware.

Miami circuit judge is getting too old for this sh*t

Judges come in all different shapes, sizes, and temperaments. Even if they don't always land their own daytime TV spot a la the Judys and Rinders of this world, there are plenty who have personality and charm to spare and this Miami-Dade circuit judge is definitely one of them. Who wouldn't watch this guy dole out cheeky televised justice on a lazy Sunday afternoon?

In 2013, Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat (okay, not the catchiest show title, but stick with it) was faced with Penelope Soto, an 18-year-old Miami woman charged with possession of Xanax. Dismissive and giggling throughout, Soto's bail was set at $5,000. But before leaving she says "adios," which is just a little too cavalier for this adjudicator. He ups the bail to $10,000. She then flips him the bird, says "f**k you," and he calls her back to throw 30 days in county jail on top of everything else for contempt of court.

According to NBC Miami, a tearful Soto appeared in front Rodriguez-Chomat again a few days later to apologize, and to admit that she had taken Xanax on the day of her arrest. The judge accepted her apology and dropped both the jail sentence and the $10,000 bond, hoping the incident would serve as a wake-up call of sorts. That old "respect your elders" adage has rarely been more appropriate. Especially when those elders are wearing judge's robes and you're wearing orange.

Hiter's loyal, demented president of the People's Court

Shrieking, murderous megalomaniacs were in no short supply in Nazi Germany, and its courtrooms were no exception. Judge Roland Freisler was a notorious monster, serving as president of the People's Court in Germany from 1942 and becoming famous for his aggressive delivery and psychologically torturous trials that usually resulted in death sentences or life in prison. Probably the most notable were the "show trials" of 1944, for the group of men who plotted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Intended to shame and degrade the perpetrators and frighten everyone else, this footage of Freisler berating one such conspirator, Ulrich-Wilhelm Graf von Schwerin von Schwanenfeld (usually shortened to Schwerin), is both chilling and incredibly absurd. Freisler's theatrics almost come across as too demented to exist outside Hollywood, but perhaps even more powerful and surreal is Schwerin's quiet dignity in the face of Freisler's hysterics. As seen in a Discovery documentary, despite facing almost certain death, he betrays no signs of regret or weakness and seems to stands firm in the absolute righteousness of what he had attempted to carry out. He was later sentenced to death by hanging.

Freisler was killed in a bombing raid in 1945, on the day that Fabian Von Schlabrendorff — another member of the same assassination plot — was due to stand trial and face execution. Freisler, who had demanded to know if Schwerin was "cracking under his own villainy" before, ended up being crushed by a beam while still clutching Schlabrendorff's file. A fitting end, no?

Father of abuse victims takes matters into his own hands

For those of us fortunate enough to have never had to share a courtroom with someone who's done heinous things to us or our loved ones, it's probably hard to even fathom the razor's edge anxiety in the air and the precarious threat of volatile, unplanned outbursts hovering over everything. Emotions run understandably high, and people snap.

Randall Margraves, the father of three daughters who were abused by former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, listened to two of his daughters give emotionally charged statements in early 2018 while Nassar sat there and shook his head. When given an opportunity to speak, Margraves asked the judge to allow him "five minutes in a locked room" with Nassar. The judge refused, of course. He asked for "one minute." Still, no dice. The distraught father then lunged at Nassar before being tackled and detained by security.

As reported by CNN, a handcuffed Margraves was brought back before the judge during a lunch break to apologize and profess his embarrassment and regret. Empathy and reason won the day as Judge Janice Cunningham decided to release him without punishment, but made sure to remind him that vigilante justice-seeking is not appropriate in the courtroom. Nassar, a former Olympics doctor for the U.S. gymnastic team who abused more than 150 young women over two decades, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina made no secret of her disdain for the man upon passing the sentence, saying "I've just signed your death warrant."

A crazed Charles Manson lunges at judge with a pencil

Charles Manson's death in November 2017 has prompted a fresh perusal of the notorious cult leader's particularly thick catalog of crazy. A significant cultural episode at the time, the Tate-LaBianca murder trial in 1970 stands out among other touchstones in Manson's heinous history for a lot of reasons. Over the course of the trial — touched on in the The New York Times' obituary — Manson punched his own lawyer, his chanting followers would wait outside the courtroom to show their reverential support, and Manson and his co-defendants carved an X (eventually modified into a swastika) into their foreheads. It quickly became a gross spectacle of the absurd, and perhaps the battiest instance was Manson accusing the judge of trying to kill him and the violent outburst that followed.

According to a 1970 New York Times article, the judge threatened to have Manson removed, then Manson threatened to have the judge removed before charging at him with a pencil in hand. He's tackled by two security guard and dragged to the floor, screaming that someone ought to cut the judge's head off.

The aftermath here has been well documented. Manson was found guilty of nine murders in total and sentenced to life in prison, he was incarcerated in various institutions over the years and was denied parole a number of times, most recently in 2012. No video footage of the outburst exists, but it still remains firmly embedded in Manson's storied and horrid legacy.

Father leaps at the Ohio serial killer who murdered his daughter

Another distraught father faced with the living, breathing source of unimaginable pain. It was 2016 in Ohio, and father Van Terry had taken to the podium during a murder trial to speak about the loss of his daughter Shirellda. As reported by CBS News, she had been murdered by serial killer Michael Madison, who was seated behind Terry while he spoke. Terry paused in the middle of his statement to look back at Madison for a moment, and something snapped; the grieving parent made a sudden, almighty leap over the table in an effort to reach Madison and attack him amid cries of protest and scrambling bodies trying to maintain order. Madison avoided injury, and Terry was pulled away.

Speaking to a Fox 8 broadcaster after the incident, Terry explained that the killer was smirking when he turned to look at him during his statement, which was just too much to handle on top of everything else the man had done. Found guilty of the torture and murder of three women, Madison was given the death penalty for his crimes.

Jackson County judge tells convicted killer he hopes she dies in prison

Clearly, courtroom judges are less likely to keep their feelings to themselves than you might expect, and this Jackson County judge certainly made no secret of his utter contempt for convicted killer Camia Gamet.

Thirty-one-year-old Gamet was sentenced to life in prison for killing her boyfriend in 2012, and Judge John McBain refused to tolerate her dismissive attitude in court. He didn't hold back while passing his sentence, losing his temper and throwing all niceties out the window, telling her "I hope you die in prison" among other scathing indictments.

This judge is no stranger to losing his cool in the courtroom either. During a hearing on a personal protection order violation in 2016, as reported by Michigan Live, he assisted in tackling an uncooperative and aggressive man to the ground, to preserve the dignity and decorum of the court, according to him. And when he alleged he was a potential victim of stalking and harassment himself in 2017, he didn't mince words when it came to the perpetrator: "If you want me, then come at me." With a name like Judge John McBain, what do you really expect other than harsh, stone-cold justice?

Detroit woman's chilling admission to the murder of two of her daughters

While emotions do tend to run high in the courtroom, the clinical and painstakingly thorough nature of the process of determining guilt isn't really conducive to unexpected and chilling confessions of guilt on the part of the accused. But it does happen.

Mitchelle Blair was charged with the horrific torture and murder of two of her children in 2015. Their bodies were found in a deep freezer in her home following an eviction, and her dramatic, raving admission that it was she who killed them had her ushered out of the courtroom. She screamed "Everybody wants to know, yes, I did kill her!" referring to her daughter, after her surviving son testified via tape to having witnessed the murder of his brother. Blair claimed to have done what she did because the children had been abusing her surviving son, according to NBC News, and said she felt no remorse whatsoever for her actions. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Former Bosnian-Croat war criminal drinks poison in the middle of UN tribunal

When a convicted war criminal drinks a vial of poison in court upon having his 20-year jail term upheld, the logical assumption is that he'd rather die immediately than face any jail time, and it's probably a pretty loud admission of guilt. But while Slobodan Praljak was guilty as sin by any reasonable metric, his suicide seems to have been a gesture of twisted pride.

As reported by The Guardian, Praljak was a key figure in the Bosnian war in the early 1990s, and was convicted for crimes against humanity in 2013 for his actions in the city of Mostar. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but he appealed, and his sentence had just been upheld at a 2017 U.N. tribunal when he took drastic, baffling action. He stood, loudly declared he was innocent and rejected the verdict, then tipped back a small vial of liquid he'd managed to smuggle in with him somehow. Quiet befuddlement followed, until Slobodan announced he'd swallowed poison. The judge suspended the proceedings immediately, and an ambulance was called but Praljak died later that day.

If this final act contributed anything to Praljak's legacy of atrocity, it's mostly just capped it with an element of messy confusion. Praljak would have been eligible for release in 2019, having been imprisoned since 2004 and thus having already served the majority his sentence, so his perverse declaration can't really be seen as anything other than a gruesome symbolic gesture.