Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Cases Involving Attacks By Police Using Taser Weapons – Pregnant Woman Who Wouldn’t Sign Ticket Assaulted

May 29, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The US Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take up the appeal of a pregnant woman who was shocked three times with a police Taser after she refused to sign a traffic ticket for driving 32 miles per hour in a 20 m.p.h. school zone.

The woman, Malaika Brooks, was seven months pregnant and was driving her 11-year-old son to school in Seattle at the time of the speeding violation.

At issue in the case was whether police acted reasonably in deploying the Taser after Ms. Brooks refused to sign the speeding ticket and then refused to voluntarily exit her car to allow officers to place her under arrest.

The justices were being asked to examine under what circumstances police use of a Taser device crosses the line from acceptable law enforcement tactic to excessive force.

The high court also declined to hear a second police Taser case involving a woman in Maui, Hawaii, Jayzel Mattos, who was intentionally shocked with a Taser as police attempted to arrest her husband, Troy, following a domestic abuse allegation.

Both Brooks and Ms. Mattos filed suit against the police, alleging they violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force. Lawyers for the police officers argued that the officers were protected from such lawsuits by qualified immunity.

In both cases, federal judges ruled that the police officers were not entitled to qualified immunity, and that the cases should proceed to a trial.

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that even though the actions by police amounted to the excessive use of force, the law was not established clearly enough at the time of both incidents to give police fair warning that their actions were unreasonable and unconstitutional.

“We conclude that Brooks and the Mattoses have alleged constitutional violations, but that not every reasonable officer at the time of the respective incidents would have known – beyond debate – that such conduct violates the Fourth Amendment,” the Ninth Circuit said.

The high court decision not to take up the two cases allows the Ninth Circuit decision to stand.

The Taser incident with Brooks took place in November 2004. The 33-year-old expectant mother was pulled over by a police officer and issued a ticket for driving too fast in a school zone.

Under Seattle law, traffic violators are required to sign their tickets upon receipt. Failure to sign the ticket is itself a violation of the law.

After stopping at the side of the road, Brooks told her son to walk the rest of the way to school. She then told the officer that she did not believe she was speeding in the school zone and that she felt signing the ticket was an admission of guilt. She told the officer she wished to contest the charge.

Another officer and a police sergeant soon arrived on the scene. The officers insisted that unless Brooks signed the ticket she would be arrested and taken to jail. As further incentive an officer produced a Taser.

Brooks told the officer she did not know what a Taser was. She added: “I have to go to the bathroom, I am pregnant, I’m less than 60 days from having my baby.”

The officers attempted to physically remove Brooks from the car, but she held tightly to the steering wheel. One of the officers then used the Taser to deliver an electric shock to Brooks, first to her thigh, then her arm, and finally to her neck. The three shocks took place within 42 seconds.

She was then pulled from the car to the ground, handcuffed, and taken to jail.

A jury later convicted her of refusing to sign a traffic citation. No verdict was reached on a resisting arrest charge.

Brooks gave birth to a healthy baby girl in January 2005. Brooks has permanent burn scars at the Taser contact points, according to briefs filed in the case.

Appeared Here

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Maule Guards At Alabama Tutwiler Prison For Women Abused Female Inmates For Years – At Least 20 Guards Transferred Or Fired In Past 5 Years After Sex With Inmates

May 23, 2012

WETUMPKA, ALABAMA – Male guards at an Alabama women’s prison engaged in the widespread sexual abuse of female inmates for years, a nonprofit group alleged in a formal complaint filed with the Justice Department on Tuesday.

The Equal Justice Initiative asked the Justice Department to investigate alleged incidents occurring between 2009 and 2011 at the Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama. The federal agency confirmed that it received the complaint though declined further comment.

“In interviews with more than 50 women incarcerated at Tutwiler, EJI uncovered evidence of frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence,” the Montgomery-based group said in a statement.

“This troubling cycle of abuse and lack of accountability has established a widespread pattern and practice of custodial sexual misconduct,” said Bryan Stevenson, the group’s executive director.

Stevenson also blamed the Alabama Department of Corrections for under-reporting the alleged attacks, which the group says include rapes, and for responding inadequately.

The group claims that more than “20 Tutwiler employees have been transferred or terminated in the past five years for having illegal sexual contact with prisoners.”

“It’s an ongoing thing, a daily thing,” said Stefanie Hibbett, 31, a former Tutwiler inmate. “You see women raped and beaten, and nothing is ever done.”

Hibbett said she was the victim of sexual assault in November 2010. She said she told the prison’s warden about the assault, but no charges were ever filed against the prison guard she says attacked her. An Alabama judge dismissed a civil suit she filed in the case in August.

Several imprisoned women also allegedly became pregnant after being raped by guards, giving birth while in custody, the nonprofit group reported.

CNN cannot independently confirm that account. The Alabama attorney general’s office referred questions to the Alabama Department of Corrections, which did not immediately return a call for comment.

A 2007 Justice Department report found that Tutwiler maintained the highest rate of sexual assault among prisons for women and 11th overall of those evaluated across the United States.

Appeared Here