Seventh Circuit Allows “Death By Taser” Suit to Proceed

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 disputeĀ  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.

14 thoughts on “Seventh Circuit Allows “Death By Taser” Suit to Proceed”

  1. Brian’s right, bullying is bad and shouldn’t be allowed by cops, prosecutors, or anyone else.

    As long as we are on the subject of Taser lawsuits, there is one in the District of Colorado right now that is pretty different. As many know I used to live in Steamboat Springs CO and right near it is Oak Creek.

    The entire Routt County area is a high drug use area according to the DEA. The DEA arrested the fiance of former judge Joel Thompson. Kevin Bennett, the former president of Steamboat Springs’ city council, is a convicted drug dealer. And Cargo Rodeman, the former mayor of Oak Creek, sued the City of Oak Creek for tasering her in an attempted drug bust. I guess they didn’t have a warrant when they chased her into her house and blasted her.

  2. Thanks for posting the opinion. Very sad. With regard to the bearer of the Taser, Trigger-happy comes to mind…

  3. In Colorado there is a requirement that insurers of local governments file an annual report with the State Division of Insurance of their claims handling process but CIRSA never ever filed one.

  4. I am struck by the intense contradiction of a recent Supreme Court decision, in which, methinks, to have the actual right to remain silent, one has to not be silent in order to assert the right to remain silent by not remaining silent.

    In October, I attended the AutCom (Autism National Committee) annual conference in a Milwaukee area hotel near General Mitchell International Airport Billy Mitchell Field.

    Some of the presenters are unable to communicate by talking in words, and use facilitated communication devices and methods. One such person, nationally recognized, is a high school senior and in the National Honor Society. Imagine the police in Mukwanago (which is southwest of Milwaukee and just north of Interstate 43) encountering this honor student, and demanding that the student talk as would a person who can talk conventionally.

    In my personal past, some people who (so I guess) believed they had absolute authority over me and my conduct bullied me so intensely as to drive me into catatonic states which were my last recourse for survival, and at times, drove me into what I hold to be the most extreme catatonic state, intensely agitated catatonia.

    To me, bullying is wrong, it is wrong when done by pre-school children, it is wrong when done by grade-school or high-school age people. Bullying is wrong when done by officers of the court and officers and elected officials of society. Bullying is wrong when done by the United States of America’s Department of Justice. Bullying is, methinks, the antithesis of justice, for bullying never makes anything right.

    What is the best clarion call I can remember ever hearing as a call for actual justice?

    “Let right be done.”

    As I observe, bullying is never right, and always wrong.

    Alas, it may be right to learn what is wrong. Bullying may be right as a way of learning that bullying is wrong.

    And the world of human society spins out of control?

    In my personal effort to learn what is right and how to do what is right, I find that I am, as a matter of right, in absolute, utter, and inviolable contempt of court if the court process be adversarial.

    I find that, were I not in contempt of any and every adversarial court process, I would be in contempt of my life and in contempt of everything I have ever found to be truthful and decent.

    I “struggle” with finding a practicable method of avoiding unintentionally and/or unwittingly doing something which triggers in a police officer acting in his/her official capacity the will to murder me and claim that I intended to achieve suicide by police officer.

    Had bullying in my past not driven me into the refuge of selective mutism, when any words I could imagine would trigger even more intense bullying, I might not be so concerned. Alas, methinks I am a prime candidate for being treated by police officers much in the way the Mukwonago, Wisconsin area police treated (mistreated?) Nickolos Cyrus.

    What is the proper punishment for people who fail to do what they are told to do, and so fail because they were told to do what is actually impossible for them to actually do?

  5. However, like any other insurance, once used the premiums thereafter are very high … some city governments understand this, others learn it the hard way.

  6. How is it that bad that theres actually a market for this type of insurance? Thats insanity.

  7. I wouldn’t assume that it comes out of taxpayer money. Most or many local governments buy errors and omissions insurance. It is bad public policy that that makes them feel safe from being sued since it usually has a low deductible so they can use their government powers to bully bully bully. see Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing.

  8. The sad thing is, even if they win this trial, the money wont be coming out of the pocket of the sadistic thug in a government costume, but innocent taxpayers. I wonder how many days of paid vacation he got for murdering a mentally impaired non violent human man.

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