A 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