9th Circuit Rules Against Tasered Pregnant Mom; Dissent Hits ‘Off the Wall’ Theory
Posted Mar 29, 2010 7:05 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A federal appeals court has ruled 2-1 that officers who Tasered a pregnant woman three times when she refused to sign a traffic ticket have immunity from her lawsuit.
The ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals spurred an angry dissent by Judge Marsha Berzon, who called the majority’s theory of justification “off the wall,” the Associated Press reports.
The majority said Malaika Brooks was uncooperative and resisting arrest when the Seattle police officers Tasered her, using the device’s “touch mode,” which hurts less less than its “dart mode.”
Brooks was driving her son to school when she was stopped for speeding in a school zone, according to the facts recited in the opinion (PDF). She refused to sign the ticket because she thought it was an admission of guilt. Officers threatened to use the Taser unless Brooks got out of the car, but she refused.
According to Berzon’s dissent, “Brooks had no weapons and had not harmed or threatened to harm a soul.” She warned officers she was seven months’ pregnant, but they used the Taser on her anyway, “causing her to scream with pain and leaving burn marks and permanent scars.”
“I fail utterly to comprehend how my colleagues are able to conclude that it was objectively reasonable to use any force against Brooks,” Berzon wrote, “let alone three activations of a Taser, in response to such a trivial offense.”
Brooks’ baby was born healthy two months after the incident.