Reversing a lower court grant of summary judgment, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed a Wisconsin couple’s “Death by Taser” suit to proceed to trial against the police and Town and Village of Mukwonago, Wisconsin. Their son, 29-year-old, Nickolos Cyrus, suffered from a bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and was well-known to the police for prior delusional — but non-criminal — episodes. When the young man was reported missing, police located him on a construction site. His parents allege that Nickolos was passive, unarmed, and had no history of violence such that multiple taser shocks would be needed to subdue him. The police respond that multiple taserings were a reasonable use of force under the circumstances and that his death was unforeseen.
At issue in the summary judgment was just how many taserings were inflicted on the decedent. Overturning the trial court’s determination that no material factual dispute existed such that a jury could find excessive force, Judge Sykes wrote, “there are material facts in dispute about the extent to which Cyrus attempted to evade the officers and the actual amount of force Czarnecki used to bring about his arrest. The evidence conflicts, most importantly, on how many times Cyrus was Tasered. Czarnecki testified that he deployed his Taser five or six times, and the autopsy report describes marks on Cyrus’s back consistent with roughly six Taser shocks. But the Taser’s internal computer registered twelve trigger pulls, suggesting that more than six shocks may have been used. On a Fourth Amendment excessive-force claim, these are key factual disputes not susceptible of resolution on summary judgment.”
The sad facts of the case and the opinion can be found here.
–Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger.