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Posted by on Mar 28, 2010 in Breaking News, Society | 39 comments

Pregnant Woman Tasered For No Reason At All? No Problem!

I really cannot think of anything to add that would improve on what Digby has written about this barbarity, so I will just quote from her post, which opens with an extended quote from the news article:

Three Seattle police officers were justified when they used a stun gun on a pregnant mother who refused to sign a traffic ticket, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a case that prompted an incredulous dissent.

Malaika Brooks was driving her son to Seattle’s African American Academy in 2004 when she was stopped for doing 32 mph in a school zone. She insisted it was the car in front of her that was speeding, and refused to sign the ticket because she thought she’d be admitting guilt.

Rather than give her the ticket and let her go on her way, the officers decided to arrest her. One reached in, turned off her car and dropped the keys on the floor. Brooks stiffened her arms against the steering wheel and told the officers she was pregnant, but refused to get out, even after they threatened to stun her.

The officers — Sgt. Steven Daman, Officer Juan Ornelas and Officer Donald Jones — then stunned her three times, in the thigh, shoulder and neck, and hauled her out of the car, laying her face-down in the street.
[…]

The article goes on to say that Ms. Brooks had her baby two months later, and the baby was healthy, but Brooks sustained permanent damage from the tasering.

The police officers’ rationale for tasering Brooks was that she was resisting a lawful order and that, although “… Brooks was not going to be able to harm anyone with her car at a moment’s notice […] [n]onetheless, some threat she might retrieve the keys and drive off erratically remained, particularly given her refusal to leave the car and her state of agitation.”

The dissenting judge in the case (it was a three-judge panel) blasted the decision:

The majority’s opinion outraged Judge Marsha Berzon, who called it “off the wall.”

“I fail utterly to comprehend how my colleagues are able to conclude that it was objectively reasonable to use any force against Brooks, let alone three activations of a Taser, in response to such a trivial offense,” she wrote.

She argued that under Washington law, the officers had no authority to take Brooks into custody: Failure to sign a traffic infraction is not an arrestable offense, and it’s not illegal to resist an unlawful arrest.
[…]

Digby:

Oh no, she needed to be electrocuted and arrested because there was a chance that she might drive off erratically. Or shape-shift into a lizard and levitate. You just can’t be too careful. In any case, what these judges seem to be saying is that there is no lawful reason that an officer cannot taser a citizen as long as he is barking some order and they fail to comply quickly enough. No reason of any kind, not even the fact that the officers had no right to issue that order at all. That’s scary.

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