Eleventh Circuit Rules that Video of Officer Repeatedly Tasering a Sobbing Man Sitting By the Road is Not a Constitutional Violation

defaultA man is appealing a recent loss before the United States Court of Appeals in a very disturbing decision. In the video below, Deputy Jonathan Rackard of the Washington County Florida repeated uses of a taser on Jesse Buckley who is merely sitting and crying next to a road. The Eleventh Circuit voted 2-1 that the Eighth Amendment was not violated in the case, reversing a decision from the trial court.

The video in Buckley v. Haddock was taken from a dashcam on March 17, 2004. It shows a sobbing man who simply fails to comply with orders to stand up and get into a cruiser. He does not threaten or wrestle with the officer. Yet, he is repeatedly tasered as a type of punishment for failing to comply. Yet, two judges on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (J. L. Edmondson and Joel F. Dubina) voted to reverse the decision of the trial court that the video offered presumptive proof of a constitutional violation. The video was recently posted on YouTube.

The the district court rejected a summary judgment motion . Judge Smoak on March 6, 2007 ruled that:

While “the right to make an arrest … necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it,” under the facts of this
case, no reasonable officer could believe that using such extreme force was lawful. Id. at 1200. As the Eleventh Circuit stated, “once an arrest has been fully secured and any
potential danger or risk of flight vitiated, a police officer cannot employ…severe and unnecessary force.” Id. In a situation very similar to that in Lee, Rackard’s actions were
“so plainly unnecessary and disproportionate, no reasonable officer could have had a mistaken understanding as to whether [the] particular amount of force [was] legal in the
circumstances.” Id. (Internal quotations and citation omitted). Rackard is not entitled to qualified immunity.

The appellate panel ruled:

In the light of the undisputed facts established in the record, we conclude that Defendant’s use of force in this particular situation was not outside the range of reasonable conduct under the Fourth Amendment. Of particular importance are three facts. First, the incident occurred at night on the side of a highway with considerable passing traffic. Second, the deputy could not complete the arrest — that is, truly control Plaintiff — because Plaintiff was resisting. Third, the deputy resorted to using the taser only after trying to persuade Plaintiff to cease resisting,after attempting to lift Plaintiff, and after repeatedly and plainly warning Plaintiff that a taser would be used and then giving Plaintiff some time to comply.

Notably, Judge Dubina concurred despite his finding that the third taser application did violate the Constitution, but he agreed “with Chief JudgeEdmondson that such violation was not clearly established. Accordingly, I agree that we should reverse the district court’s denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity.”

Judge Martin dissented on the grounds that

“the Fourth Amendment forbids an officer from discharging repeatedbursts of electricity into an already handcuffed misdemeanant—who is sitting still beside a rural road and unwilling to move—simply to goad him into standing up. I also conclude that at the time of the incident, Deputy Rackard was on fair notice that his conduct was unconstitutional. Not only did Deputy Rackard unnecessarily discharge his taser gun against Mr. Buckley three times, but each time he did so,he repeatedly prodded Mr. Buckley’s body with the stun gun’s live electrodes—inflicting additional pain and leaving Mr. Buckley with sixteen burn scars.”

For the appellate ruling, click here.

For the video, click here<.

16 thoughts on “Eleventh Circuit Rules that Video of Officer Repeatedly Tasering a Sobbing Man Sitting By the Road is Not a Constitutional Violation”

  1. The PO and the general public would have definitely been better served if the officer wouldn’t have tased Buckley. He could have easily waited for the back-up and done things sanely. And he should have. I personally would have liked to have seen this man cracked over the head with the PO’s mag-lite for not complying and not respecting authority. He’s a bum. What people deserve and what the law permits/allows are two distinct things however and in my opinion they should have found the officer guilty of abuse. Bad cop, no donut!

  2. I hate it for everyone who has seen this incident as such a negative one. If you were actually more directly involved in this case, and knew half of what happened, you would not be making these comments. Your comments further display your sense of ignorance, disrespect and lack of education. Any person who has any sense of social skills would refrain from making such comments on the internet, and putting themselves at risk for getting sued for libel. What is happening to our society? It is sad when the only thing that some people feel that they can do is to get on the internet to try to defame someone else, when the truth of the matter is that they are just unhappy with who they are.

  3. Any cop that tasers me for any reason better kill me with it. Because as soon as the power is off I’m going to rip their head off! The time has come to ban these things! These cops are just using them to dispense instant justice. Cowards tasering women and old ladies.

  4. This is ironic in a funny/not funny kind of way. My ex-girlfriend dated and is now married to this cop after she dated me and the guy she dated before me is now convicted sex offender in Maryland. Obviously I was the best of the lot.

  5. Jagdar,
    Good point. I wondered that myself and the only thought is that one is not allowed to park on the roadside in that venue.
    However, that doesn’t make sense so the question remains and only enhances the potential misuse of power.

  6. Well, more people’s attitudes about the police and the courts will be poisened. Thug tactics don’t make people behave. In a very indirect way this shit will lead to some cop getting shot in the face some day.

  7. Yes, we need those people who haven’t taken a shit in 10 days and they’re mad as hell!!! We’ll call em, no shitters!

    As to the temperance thing, there was an original post that isn’t there anymore–Mr. Gorbachov tore down that post! I based my comments on the original wording and pictures. I’m not getting involved further with that thread.

  8. Jill,
    Thank you. I don’t know if Faux is the most salable way to present it. I’m not good with slogans, but the point has to be made that this is not real conservatism. When I was young there was little doubt that Senators like Bob Taft,Everett Dirksen, and Barry Goldwater put country/constitution before party.

    The model from my youth for today’s Republicans (in general) was Joe McCarthy. Tailgunner Joe was honestly puzzled by the hatred he stirred up because he is quoted as saying words to the effect that “It’s just politics.” He was totally in it for himself and his cronies, with little care for the futures & fortunes of the public, or what innocent lives he destroyed. It seems like the Republican’s of today with a few exceptions, find Limbaugh’s analogizing political opposition to Obama with rooting for one’s Football Team an apt metaphor.

  9. Mike S.,

    I think you make an excellent point about faux conservatism. I am hoping the release of these memos, which show how the govt. clearly proceeded to move against our citizens will wake up Limbaugh fauxs and turn them back into real conservatives. Sometimes there’s just nothing better than badger like, cranky, real conservatives for getting into the face of the powerful.

  10. The compassion this PO showed was nonexistent. His approach to the man was coldblooded and unsympathetic. When he couldn’t lift the man up he should have waited for backup, put his flashers on and reflectors on the road. Instead he was “too busy” to do that, perhaps he was going off duty soon, so expediency won out. This was clear evidence that the PO tasered without cause.

    The Appellate Panels ruling was absurd. It focused primarily on the issue of whether the person was resisting arrest. The reasoning that it wasn’t fully an arrest because the man was not “fully under control” is specious logically. Suppose someone had been shot in the shoulder by an officer, was lying on the ground in pain and shock from the officers handcuffing him and therefore with the officers assistance could not stand to get into the car? This would be resisting arrest in this court’s judgment.

    The officer’s actions were ones of expediency, rather than need or imminent danger. The alternative of setting up a safe situation and waiting for a backup PO to help lift the man into the police car would have been reasonable behavior and procedure. The dissenting opinion was the correct one. I am left to wonder if this ruling isn’t a result of three decades of court packing by faux conservatives. I say faux of course because true conservatives, like libertarians and liberals believe the concept of the fourth Amendment and the extension of its implications.

  11. Yeah, attempting a coup for your oil buddies isn’t unconstitutional, so what’s a little torture?

    I’ll have to stipulate that I’m not laughing.

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