A federal appeals court on Monday issued one of the most comprehensive rulings yet limiting police use of Tasers against low-level offenders who seem to pose little threat and may be mentally ill.
In a case out of San Diego County, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals criticized an officer who, without warning, shot an emotionally troubled man with a Taser when he was unarmed, yards away, and neither fleeing nor advancing on the officer.
...A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed the trial judge's ruling on Monday, concluding that the level of force used by the officer was excessive.
McPherson could have waited for backup or tried to talk the man down, the judges said. If Bryan was mentally ill, as the officer contended, then there was even more reason to use "less intrusive means," the judges said.
"Officer McPherson's desire to quickly and decisively end an unusual and tense situation is understandable," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court. "His chosen method for doing so violated Bryan's constitutional right to be free from excessive force."
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
Update: December 31, 2009
Orin Kerr at Volokh walks readers through the appellate court's opinion, and not surprisingly, is critical. See Thoughts on Bryan v. McPherson, the New Ninth Circuit Taser Case