James Cody Guedry stunned unarmed passenger Derrick Newman twice with a Taser in an Aug. 24, 2007 and was convicted by a jury in December. He could have received one year in jail but Judge John Stevens felt that “official oppression” leading to an unwarranted tasering of a citizen is worth no more than 90 days in jail. Former officer David Todd Burke, who was also found guilty of official oppression in September, is shown repeatedly hitting Newman with a baton. He received only one year’s probation.
Guedry’s attorney argued that he was just following orders and should not be punished to responding to the command of a senior officer. Sound familiar? It should. That is the argument made by officials in the Bush Administration who participated in the torture program. Immediately after his election, President Obama promised that any CIA employees who engaged in torture would not be prosecuted because they were following orders — the very argument that the United States rejected at Nuremburg. It is an argument first recorded in 1474 in the trial of Peter von Hagenbach before a tribunal of the Holy Roman Empire. President Obama changed our longtime position on this defense and blocked any accountability for CIA officials.
It appears that if a cop follows orders to taser a citizens, he can be convicted. However, if you knowingly torture prisoners, you are entirely immune.
This case also shows the continued importance of videotape evidence. It is doubtful that this case would have been brought if it was just the word of the men versus these officers. Yet, there continues to be an effort by some police departments to criminalize the videotaping of officers with little reaction from members of Congress or state legislators.