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Appeals court ruling in Maui case says Taser use should be restricted

By Ken Kobayashi

LAST UPDATED: 01:02 p.m. HST, Oct 17, 2011


The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling today that throws out a Maui woman's claims that her constitutional rights were violated when police shot her with a Taser, but makes clear that police are restricted in their use of the electronic guns.

The 10-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Jayzel Mattos' constitutional rights may have been violated, but Maui police were immune from her claims because the law on the use of Tasers was unclear at the time.

Mattos' lawyer Eric Seitz and Daniel Gluck, senior staff attorney of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, said today's decision makes clear that police can use Tasers only under certain circumstances.

Gluck said the circumstances include the safety of the officers or other people. 


Mattos, 5 feet 3 and 120 pounds, was shot by one of four Maui officers who showed up at the Mattos' Wailuku  home following a domestic disturbance call in August 2006.

The appeals court issued a similar ruling for Malaika Brooks, a pregnant woman who was stunned by a Taser after she was stopped for speeding in a Seattle school zone. But the court said she could still pursue assault and battery claims under Washington state law.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International have raised concerns about the use of the electronic weapons, but law enforcement officials contend Tasers are an effective and safe way to subdue violent suspects.

The cases drew enough interest for the 9th Circuit to convene the "en banc" panel to review decisions by two three-judge circuit panels which earlier had throw out the two women's cases.

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stanislous wrote:
Next time your "acting the fool"... ask yourself: "Would I rather be shot with a taser or a bullet?" Have you seen those tasers with the built in camera? I love it when the cops get video of stupid people acting crazy.
on October 17,2011 | 03:17PM
pizza wrote:
The whole purpose for the use of electonic guns is to minimize long term effects of the use of force with non-compliant suspects. The Taser hurts like hell for the five seconds one is being incompacitated. But after the shocking period is over, onl;ess injury is sustained when the subject falls there are little long lasting "side-effects". What is not being said in this article is that police do have guidelines for the e-gun use. Resisting a police officer's lawful efforts to control a subject isn't supposed to be painless- it is just not supposed to be cruel (which is defined as unnecessary use of pain). So should the police use stikes, kicks, pain compliance holds with the risk of being overcome or disarmed by a suspect? It is never ok for a cop to lose a fight- do you want to be the person whose call for help is not answered because the cop was overcome, disarmed, and NOW instead of facing a beating by the suspect you are facing the stolen police officer's gun? Eguns are issued to officers with guidance for usage, training, in the hope that they are used to prevent having to use more harmful force options.
on October 17,2011 | 03:58PM
Poipounder808 wrote:
@pizza...so what you are saying is the police have guidelines for the use of the taser but apparently there is no "law" regarding the use?
on October 17,2011 | 04:06PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Since it was a domestic there is a high probability that Mattos needed to be zapped.
on October 17,2011 | 05:20PM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
I guess she won't be acting up anytime soon.
on October 18,2011 | 12:33AM
High_Society wrote:
Taser use should be approved for law abiding citizens. Since the government won't let us carry guns, at least allow us to carry a "less lethal" device like a Taser so we have some means to defend ourselves. Every PD here in Hawaii has a policy on the use of force. The use of a Taser is governed by department policy. Creating laws that restrict LE agencies from making their own policies could jeopardize public safety as well as the safety of the officers. Keep in mind that the "use of force" policies that are used by the various police departments are all reviewed by an accrediting agency. If there are any inconsistencies with the policies (outside of what is common in other jurisdictions), the accrediting agencies do have a say in getting the policies fixed.
on October 18,2011 | 01:19AM
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