May 17, 2012
Time to Taser a Few Judges

Sure enough, justice is blind. Also deaf to reason and dumb. The proof is right there in the New York Times:

…The case involves Malaika Brooks, who was seven months pregnant and driving her 11-year-old son to school in Seattle when she was pulled over for speeding. The police say she was going 32 miles per hour in a school zone; the speed limit was 20.

Ms. Brooks said she would accept a ticket but drew the line at signing it, which state law required at the time. Ms. Brooks thought, wrongly, that signing was an acknowledgment of guilt.

Refusing to sign was a crime, and the two officers on the scene summoned a sergeant, who instructed them to arrest Ms. Brooks. She would not get out of her car.

The situation plainly called for bold action, and Officer Juan M. Ornelas met the challenge by brandishing a Taser and asking Ms. Brooks if she knew what it was.

She did not, but she told Officer Ornelas what she did know. “I have to go to the bathroom,” she said. “I am pregnant. I’m less than 60 days from having my baby.”

The three men assessed the situation and conferred. “Well, don’t do it in her stomach,” one said. “Do it in her thigh.”

Officer Ornelas twisted Ms. Brooks’s arm behind her back. A colleague, Officer Donald M. Jones, applied the Taser to Ms. Brooks’s left thigh, causing her to cry out and honk the car’s horn. A half-minute later, Officer Jones applied the Taser again, now to Ms. Brooks’s left arm. He waited six seconds before pressing it into her neck.

Ms. Brooks fell over, and the officers dragged her into the street, laying her face down and cuffing her hands behind her back…

The officers won a split decision in October from a 10-member panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco. The majority said the officers had used excessive force but nonetheless could not be sued because the law on the question was not clear in 2004, when the incident took place. While the ruling left the three officers in the clear, it did put them and their colleagues on notice that some future uses of Tasers would cross a constitutional line and amount to excessive force.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski dissented on the first point, saying Ms. Brooks had been “defiant” and “deaf to reason” and so had brought the incident upon herself.

As for the officers, he said: “They deserve our praise, not the opprobrium of being declared constitutional violators. The City of Seattle should award them commendations for grace under fire.”

Another dissenter, Judge Barry G. Silverman, said “tasing was a humane way to force Brooks out of her car.”

Credit where credit is due. These adornments to the federal bench were appointed by President Reagan (Kozinski) and President Clinton (Silverman).

Not in the Times story, and probably of no significance whatsoever, was the name of the school to which Ms. Brooks was driving her son. It was the African American Academy.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at May 17, 2012 07:43 PM
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Too bad there's no plural of "opprobrium". These guys would deserve it.

Posted by: Peter on May 18, 2012 11:53 AM

There is: opprobrii.

Posted by: Pluma Lashley on May 18, 2012 2:18 PM

@ Pluma Lashley

Well, then let them have it! ;-)

Posted by: Peter on May 19, 2012 7:18 AM
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