Opening Statements

Fear Factor

Posted Oct 1, 2010 3:20 AM CDT
By Barbara Rose

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How far would you go to learn about the tough situations your clients face?

Steven Borkan of Chicago’s Borkan & Scahill volunteered for a shock—literally—to experience what happens in the moments after a police officer pulls the trigger on a Taser.

Borkan defends police against civil rights complaints, and he decided he needed to learn everything he could about Tasers when the Chicago Police Department recently ordered several hundred more of the controversial device.

Proponents say the stun gun immobilizes suspects without injury; but critics say they can be deadly, particularly if a person is intoxicated or has heart disease. So earlier this year, when the CPD offered a course to educate attorneys about Tasers, Borkan signed up to judge for himself.

Borkan not only watched videos and fired a Taser at a target; he also volunteered to take a hit. A single trigger pull from a Taser delivered a five-second jolt of about 1,200 volts.

“I didn’t know I could scream that loud,” says Borkan, whose experience was caught on video. “The biggest surprise is there is no residual effect. You have five seconds after that trigger pull to bring the person under control.”

Borkan has yet to argue a Taser case, but he gets extra points from his clients for fortitude. “It gives me credibility with the officers I represent,” he says. “They’re a tough bunch.”

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