Saturday, January 19, 2008

Don't Taze me, Bro, VI

This sad case underscores a growing problem here in Texas; housing inmates with mental illnesses, and pending criminal cases, in jails whose staff are ill-trained or equipped to handle folks with these sorts of problems.

Its not good for your political career to advocate that we need to treat some accused defendants, particularly those with mental issues, in a kinder gentler manner.

Mother files suit over son's jail stun-gun death
By DALE LEZON: Houston Chronicle

A mother whose mentally ill son died two years ago after guards at the Harris County Jail shocked him with a Taser has filed a lawsuit against the county, unnamed sheriff's deputies and the stun gun manufacturer.

Daryl Dwayne Kelley, 29, died Jan. 13, 2006, after a confrontation with jail guards, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in state district court this week.

Pearline Kelley wants Harris County to change its policy regarding the use of Tasers on mentally ill people such as her son, said state Rep. Harold Dutton, her attorney.
"There ought to be a better way to (subdue people) than going in and tasering somebody, especially jail inmates," Dutton said.

The lawsuit alleges that Taser International did not properly test its device before marketing it.
"We know that Taser technology protects and that medical experts studying Taser devices have concluded that they are among the safer alternatives to subdue violent individuals who could harm law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves compared to traditional use-of-force tools," wrote Steve Tuttle, a Taser spokesman, in an e-mail response to a request for comment. "We stand firm in our belief in the life-saving value of Taser technology and will rigorously and aggressively defend such claims."

Sheriff's officials would not comment because it is an active legal case, said Lt. John Martin, office spokesman.

Office policy, Martin said, allows deputies to use Tasers on noncompliant subjects. According to the lawsuit, Kelley, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was uncooperative Jan. 12, 2006, when he was to be moved from his cell to the jail's mental health unit.
Guards used excessive force against him, the lawsuit alleges, when they fired two Taser darts into him and placed the device against his skin to subdue him.

A Taser can deliver a 50,000-volt electrical charge.

Kelley, who had been arrested and jailed on a charge of car theft, was returned to his cell and was later found "apneic and pulseless," according to the lawsuit. Dutton said Kelley had a heart attack caused by the shocks.

He was taken to a hospital, where he later died.

Dutton said the Harris County medical examiner ruled that he died from pyschotic delirium associated with hypertension cardiovascular disease.

The lawsuit requests no specific amount, but asks for compensatory and punitive damages as well as court and attorney fees.