Court OKs Repeated Tasering of Pregnant Woman
By David Kravets
March 29, 2010 | 3:46 pm |
Categories: The Courts, The Ridiculous
A federal appeals court says three Seattle police officers did not employ excessive force when they repeatedly tasered a visibly pregnant woman for refusing to sign a speeding ticket.
The lawyer representing Malaika Brooks said Monday that the court’s 2-1 decision sanctioned “pain compliance” tactics through a modern-day version of the cattle prod.
“To inflict pain on a person if that person is not doing what the police want that person to do is simply outrageous,” said Eric Zubel, the woman’s attorney. “I cannot say that loud enough.”
Zubel said he would ask the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear Friday’s 2-1 decision that drew a sharp dissent from Judge Marsha Berzon:
“Refusing to sign a speeding ticket was at the time a nonarrestable misdemeanor; now, in Washington, it is not even that. Brooks had no weapons and had not harmed or threatened to harm a soul,” (.pdf) Berzon wrote. “Although she had told the officers she was seven months pregnant, they proceeded to use a Taser on her, not once but three times, causing her to scream with pain and leaving burn marks and permanent scars.”
The majority noted that the M26 Taser was set in “stun mode” and did not cause as much pain as when set on “dart mode.” The majority noted that the circuit’s recent and leading decision on the issue concerned excessive force in the context of a Taser being set on Dart mode, which causes “neuro-muscular incapacitation.”
Stun mode, the court noted, didn’t rise to the level of excessive force because it imposes “temporary, localized pain only.”
The majority reversed a lower court judge who said the woman’s rights were violated. The lower court’s failure to distinguish between the two levels of pain modes “led the court to err in finding excessive force.”
The woman was driving her 12-year-old to the African American Academy in Seattle when she was pulled over on suspicion of speeding in 2004. The child left the car for school and a verbal spat with the police resulted in the woman receiving three, 50,000-volt shocks, first to her thigh, then shoulder and neck while she was in her vehicle. An officer was holding Brooks’ arm behind Brooks’ back while she was being shocked.
Brooks gave the officer her driver’s license, but Brooks refused to sign the ticket — believing it was akin to signing a confession. She was ultimately arrested for refusing to sign and to comply with officers asking her to exit the vehicle.
“A suspect who repeatedly refuses to comply with instructions or leave her car escalates the risk involved for officers unable to predict what type of noncompliance might come next,” Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall wrote for the majority. She was joined by Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain.
“Therefore, while using the Taser three times makes this a closer case, we find that it does not show excessive force in light of the corresponding escalation of Brooks’ resistance and the fact that it was the third tasing that appeared to dislodge her such that the officers could finally extract her from her car and gain control over her,” Hall wrote.
Gun Saint Society Honors Fort Hood Police Heroes
Fort Hood, Texas police Sgts. Mark Todd and Kimberly Munley this week wore St. Gabriel Possenti Society honor medallions presented by Society Founder-Chairman John M. Snyder at the American Police Hall of Fame (APHF) in Titusville, Florida.
A high resolution image of the photo by Ling Woo is available on request by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On November 5, Todd and Munley responded to a call at Fort Hood shortly after a suspect had fatally shot 13 people and wounded 31 others. They apprehended Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, and likely prevented other deaths and injuries. Munley is still recovering from injuries received during the incident.
Munley and Todd told reporters they were within feet of the suspect when he was shot and captured. It was "up close and personal," said Munley.
"Sgts. Munley and Todd exemplify the courage, commitment to justice, and skillful use of firearms, especially handguns, so appreciated, prized and promoted by the Society," said Snyder. "Indeed, it is a pleasure as well as a privilege to honor them. I am grateful to APHF for affording me this opportunity during its Law Enforcement Officers of the Year ceremonies"
The Society's patron, St. Gabriel Possenti, used handguns in 1860 to rescue villagers in Isola del Gran Sasso, Italy from a gang of terrorizing marauders. He died of natural causes in 1862. Pope Benedict XV canonized him in 1920. The Society seeks his official Vatican designation as Patron of Handgunners. It emphasizes the historical, philosophical and theological bases for the right of self-defense.
Snyder serves on the boards of the National Association of Chiefs of Police (NACOP) and the American Federation of Police and Concerned Citizens. Both support APHF.
According to the recently-completed NACOP postal survey of America's chiefs of police and sheriffs, 77 percent of the nation's law enforcement command officers believe general recognition throughout the states of permits to carry concealed handguns issued by a state would facilitate the violent crime-fighting potential of the professional law enforcement community; 71 percent think qualified, law-abiding armed citizens can be of assistance to the professional law enforcement community in promoting justice and reducing the incidence of violent criminal activity; and 95 percent believe any law-abiding citizen should be able to purchase a firearm for sport or self-defense.
Click to view image: 'c43678d77a3f-awards.jpg'
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