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

By Ken Kobayashi

LAST UPDATED: 1:02 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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