Ninth Circuit Rules Police Officers Were Justified in Tasering Pregnant Woman Three Times Over Traffic Ticket

The United States Court of Appeals has ruled that three Seattle police officers were justified when they tasered a pregnant mother three times when she refused to sign a traffic ticket. Malaika Brooks was driving her son to Seattle’s African American Academy in 2004 when she was stopped for doing 32 mph in a school zone. When she refused to get out of her car to be arrested, one officer tasered her repeatedly despite (she claims) knowing that she was pregnant.

The officers – Sgt. Steven Daman, Officer Juan Ornelas and Officer Donald Jones – hit her in the thigh, shoulder and neck and then hauled her out of the car and laid her face-down in the street.

While the baby was born two months later without injury, the mother has permanent scars from the taserings.

Judges Cynthia Holcomb Hall and Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain ruled that the officers were justified in making an arrest because Brooks was obstructing them and resisting arrest. The judges insisted that, while surrounded by police and the car turned off, she still was a danger: “It seems clear that Brooks was not going to be able to harm anyone with her car at a moment’s notice. Nonetheless, some threat she might retrieve the keys and drive off erratically remained, particularly given her refusal to leave the car and her state of agitation.”

Note, she was arrested after going 32 mph.

Judge Berzon wrote a lengthy and well-reasoned dissent, noting:

The stacked-up, unsubstantiated speculations that Brooks might have been able to retrieve the keys and might have decided to drive off (although she did not when she had the keys) and might have driven erratically if she did drive off and might have endangered people had she done so simply won’t do as a basis for believing Brooks posed a danger to someone. Indeed, if Officer Ornelas really believed she was going to take off and endanger people, all he had to do was hold on to the keys rather than drop them in the car.

Here is the opinion: Taser

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