Maryland Police Brutality Lawsuit Over Taser Death Will Proceed to Trial
A federal judge has ruled that a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a teenager killed after being struck by police with a Taser will go forward to trial against a Fredrick County sheriff’s deputy.
The family of Jarrel Gray, who died in November 2007 after being jolted twice with a Taser, alleges that the use of the stun gun constituted police brutality, since Gray was complying with deputy orders. This contradicts statements provided by Corporal Rudy Torres, the deputy named in the lawsuit, who says Gray was resisting arrest.
Tasers are weapons designed to deliver non-lethal shocks that incapacitate an individual who may pose a threat. However, Amnesty International has identified more than 334 deaths linked to the use of Tasers by police. A report released last year indicates that many of the deaths examined by Amnesty International were associated with repeated use of the weapons or prolonged shocks that were longer than the standard five seconds.
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The Maryland police brutality lawsuit was filed in May 2008, and charges the defendants with excessive use of force, deprivation of civil rights, negligent training and infliction of emotional distress.
On July 17, U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. scheduled a pretrial conference for September, when court dates for the trial will be set. Quarles let all of the charges go forward except the claim of emotional distress, saying there was not enough evidence that there was an intentional infliction of emotional distress in the case.
The incident sprung from a fight investigation in the county on November 18, 2007. The lawsuit claims that Gray was complying with police orders when Torres first struck him with the Taser. Torres then allegedly hit Gray with the stun gun a second time while his hands were at his sides.
Torres has stated that Gray was verbally hostile during the encounter, turned towards the deputy and reached his hand into his pants. Torres has stated that Gray was the only person who refused to show his hands when the officer arrived on scene. Torres’ account is disputed by Jerame Duvall, a witness to the incident. Gray died two hours after being hit with the Taser shocks.
A previous order from Judge Quarles dismissed all defendants from the Taser wrongful death lawsuit except the deputy who actually fired the stun gun. However, after allowing the family to file an amended complaint, Judge Quarles ruled in December that civil rights claims against the County and sheriff’s department can also continue.
According to the Frederick News Post, the first trial will be solely against Torres. If the case is successful, a subsequent trial will be scheduled against the county and sheriff’s department.
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