Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I have come out of Semi-Blogger Retirement to write this special post on Taser Torture in America. I want to thank Rikyrah for the link, and Hudson Sangree and Kim Minugh at SACBEE.com for their excellent reporting of this landmark decision. As reported by SACBEE.com, A federal appeals court on Monday issued one of the most comprehensive rulings yet limiting police use of Tasers against low-level offenders who seem to pose little threat and may be mentally ill.
In a case out of San Diego County, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals criticized an officer who, without warning, shot an emotionally troubled man with a Taser when he was unarmed, yards away, and neither fleeing nor advancing on the officer.
Sold as a nonlethal alternative to guns, Tasers deliver an electrical jolt meant to subdue a subject. The stun guns have become a common and increasingly controversial tool used by law enforcement.
There have been at least nine Taser-related fatalities in the Sacramento region, including the death earlier this month of Paul Martinez Jr., an inmate shot with a stun gun while allegedly resisting officers at the Roseville jail.
As lawsuits have proliferated against police and Taser International, which manufactures the weapons, the nation's appellate courts have been trying to define what constitutes appropriate Taser use.
The San Diego County case is the latest ruling to address the issue.
The court recounted the facts of the case:
In the summer of 2005, Carl Bryan, 21, was pulled over for a seat-belt violation and did not follow an officer's order to stay in the car.
Earlier, he had received a speeding ticket and had taken off his T-shirt to wipe away tears. He was wearing only the underwear he'd slept in because a woman had taken his keys, the court said without further explanation.
During his second traffic stop in Coronado, he got out of the car. He was "agitated … yelling gibberish and hitting his thighs, clad only in his boxer shorts and tennis shoes" but did not threaten the officer verbally or physically, the judges wrote.
That's when Coronado Police Officer Brian McPherson, who was standing about 20 feet away watching Bryan's "bizarre tantrum," fired his Taser, the court said.
Without a word of warning, he hit Bryan in the arm with two metal darts, delivering a 1,200-volt jolt.
Temporarily paralyzed and in intense pain, Bryan fell face-first on the pavement. The fall shattered four of his front teeth and left him with facial abrasions and swelling. Later, a doctor had to use a scalpel to remove one of the darts.
Bryan sued McPherson, the Coronado Police Department and the city of Coronado, alleging excessive force in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
The officer moved to have the claim dismissed, but a federal trial judge ruled in Bryan's favor.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed the trial judge's ruling on Monday, concluding that the level of force used by the officer was excessive.
McPherson could have waited for backup or tried to talk the man down, the judges said. If Bryan was mentally ill, as the officer contended, then there was even more reason to use "less intrusive means," the judges said.
"Officer McPherson's desire to quickly and decisively end an unusual and tense situation is understandable," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court. "His chosen method for doing so violated Bryan's constitutional right to be free from excessive force." . Read More HERE
AAPP, publisher of the blog, Tasered While Black and Stop Taser Torture said: "This is a great landmark ruling. I'm glad to hear that this Federal Judge had the guts to stand up for what is right, rather than to follow the script layed out by Taser International and Police Departments for so many years. We still need to work hard to get these weapons of American Torture outlawed in the United States. Limiting the use of tasers by police is one gigantic step forward in that regard."
We will be talking about the taser torture decision tonight on my blogtalk radio program. Join us, to find out what average black Americans think about the taser torture issue and other issues impacting America.
Posted by AAPP at 11:05 PM