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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Taser Torture In Fort Worth, Texas

H/T to Eddie Griffin and the folks in Fort Worth, Texas for
"Taking it to the next level"



Eddie Griffin


OHCHR-UNOG
Committee against Torture
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Telephone Number (41-22) 917-9000
Fax Number (41-22) 917-9006
E-mail to urgent-action@ohchr.org


RE: Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 39/46 of 10 December 1984, entry into force 26 June 1987, in accordance with article 27

PART I, Article 1
1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

On May 4, 2009, the Fort Worth chapters of the Southern Leadership Conference (SCLC), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the community-based Carver Heights East Association, convened a joint press conference and prayer vigil outside City Hall for the families of Michael Jacobs, Jr., Noah Lopez, and Carolyn Daniels.

These families were interviewed by WFAA New 8 TV. (See Prayers for end to Taser use by police, reference http://www.wfaa.com/video/index.html?nvid=358374&shu=1)

In an article by Peter Gorman of the Fort Worth Weekly, entitled “US: Torture by Taser” (Ref. http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=12455), published June 24, 2005, the author details two prior taser deaths in Fort Worth. Robert Guerrero, who was apprehended in a petty burglary, was stunned for 10 seconds, “double the normal length of time”. In the next minute, Guerrero was jolted three more times with five-second blasts. When he stopped breathing and could not be revived, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office later listed the cause of death as heart failure brought on by “acute cocaine overdose”. But a member of the Medical Examiner’s staff —who asked not to be named — told Fort Worth Weekly that “the amount of cocaine found in Guerrero’s blood would not normally have caused him to have heart failure.”

The other Fort Worth Taser victim, Midland architect Eric Hammock, died in April 3, 2005 after he ran from police, tried to take on an officer, and ended up suffering heart failure — like Guerrero, after getting hit repeatedly with a Taser while he had cocaine in his system. The medical examiner’s report, released on April 28, showed that Hammock suffered from heart disease and that he was jacked way up on cocaine. The official cause of death, in layman’s terms, was heart failure caused by cocaine intoxication. As in the Guerrero case, the Taser was not considered a contributing factor in Hammock’s death, despite the multiple jolts he had received.

According to Amnesty International, between 2001 and 2004 more than 70 deaths occurred in the United States and Canada to people in police custody within hours or days of their being hit with a Taser. By 2005, those kinds of deaths reached 103 just by March — and there were at least two additional deaths in April, including Eric Hammock’s in Fort Worth. Michael Jacobs, Jr. was reported to be # 405.

Here is the numeric chronological listing of taser deaths by the Fort Worth Police Department, along with date of death and age of victim.

#81 November 2, 2004: Robert Guerrero, 21, Fort Worth, Texas
#109 April 3, 2005: Eric Hammock, 43, Fort Worth, Texas
#130 June 24, 2005: Carolyn Daniels, 25, Fort Worth, Texas
#214 August 23, 2006: Noah Lopez, 25, Fort Worth, Texas
#405 April 18, 2009: Michael Jacobs Jr., 24, Fort Worth, Texas

As of this date, May 6, 2009, the investigation into the death Michael Jacobs, Jr. continues. Here was a mentally ill young man, distraught, and refusing to take his medication. His family called for the assistance of the authorities and medical personnel. But EMS (Emergency Medical personnel) was, instead, sent away from the scene. They were called back nearly an hour later while Jacobs was in the process of dying.

TASER International, Inc., the manufacturer of the Electronic Control Devices (ECDs), has been careful and meticulous to disassociate its weapons from causation of death, although these instruments emit up to 50,000 volts of electricity through the human body. Besides this, the company has repeatedly boasted that no Taser has ever been proven to be a “direct cause” of a fatality, a statistic that has not gone unnoticed by the new Fort Worth chief of police, Jeff Halstead, who hails from Phoenix, a few miles from Scottsdale, home of the taser producing corporation.

In its strategy to win the hearts and minds of the public, TASER set out to “gain market acceptance, establish and expand direct and indirect distribution channels”, through its “ability to attract and retain the endorsement of key opinion-leaders in the law enforcement community.”

Secondly, TASER has waged an intense propaganda and legal battle against the press. The company sued newspaper publisher Gannett Co. for libel, arguing that it published a series of articles that misled readers about the safety of its products.

“Taser will use litigation in any way it possibly can to persuade the public that these stun guns don't hurt people,” said Robert Haslam, a Fort Worth, Texas lawyer and chair of AAJ's Taser Litigation Group. “There seems to be a lot of smoke, but Taser says there's no fire.”

Robert Haslam is misinformed, as well as Chief Jeff Halstead, who has, in turn, misinformed the public about the danger of tasers. A San Jose federal jury awarded the family of Robert Heston, Jr. an amount of $6 million against Taser International on the grounds that the company “failed to warn police that its stun guns could be dangerous when used on people under the influence of drugs or in conjunction with chest compressions”…. this award was a Product Liability award against Taser international, the “stun gun” manufacturer.

More recently, the company has fought back, forcing some medical examiners to change their autopsy reports on taser-related deaths.

In Taser Intl., Inc. v. Chief Med. Examr. of Summit Co., Ohio, No. CV 2006-11-7421, Taser International, Inc. sued a county medical examiner to remove any mention of the device from the autopsy reports of three men who died after being shot with the Taser, and the court sided with the company.

Judge Ted Schneiderman, of the Summit County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, found: “There is simply no medical, scientific, or electrical evidence to support the conclusion that the Taser X26 had anything to do with the death of Dennis S. Hyde, Richard Holcomb, or Mark D. McCullaugh. The medical examiner failed to present any evidence on the use and effect of Taser devices.”

THEREFORE:

WE CHARGE that TASERS ARE TORTURE, as defined by the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

WE CHARGE that Tasering is “an act by which severe pain and suffering” is “intentionally inflicted”, willfully and knowingly that these devices emit 50,000 volts, more than enough to electrocute anyone on the spot.

WE CHARGE that Tasering has caused more than 400 deaths in the United States since 2001 to victims who, otherwise, would not have been given a death sentence, and in many cases, totally innocent of any offense.

WE CHARGE that TASER International is deceiving the public, public officials, and politicians with its non-lethal or less-the-lethal claim, giving civilian law enforcement the false assurances that its product is not deadly.

WE CHARGE that TASER International has used strong arm tactics against the press, against medical examiners, and anyone else who might causally taint its devices with “direct cause” of death.

WE CHARGE that TASER International has created a lexicon of its own to obscure real cause-effect relationship in taser-related fatalities. This includes the creation of the “Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome”, since after tasing, a subject is taken into custody. In theory, it is “excited delirium” of an agitated state while being taken into custody that the subject has a seizure and dies. This is nothing more than legal babble designed to disassociate the manufacturer from liability of its product.

WE CHARGE that TASER International, Inc. and its supporters, backers, and investors are insensitive in not recognizing the innocent victims killed by its weapon. They assume no responsibility, nor do they express sympathy to the families.

WE CHARGE that TASERs have been used to inflict punishment on subject or to force compliance. In most of these instances, either no crime was committed by the subject, or the offenses are minor. They have tasered children with behavioral problems, women (some pregnant), and men (mostly minorities).

WE CHARGE that the Tasered Victims of Fort Worth were of minority persuasion. When more pain and suffering is intentional inflicted, disproportionately upon minorities, that also constitute TORTURE.

IN CONCLUSION: The U.S. government is TASER International’s largest customer, which is why our appeal to Washington, D.C. has been in vain. Hereby, we have exhausted all avenues to petition our government for redress to the above grievances.


Presented by Eddie Griffin (BASG), AfroSpear and Afrosphere Action Coalition

More on Taser Torture & Death Cases in Fort Worth, Texas, USA HERE




1 comment:

Excited-Delirium.com said...

My blog at Excited-Delirium.com (do not forget the dash) has examined the issue of torture as relates to tasers. See the right hand column on my blog where the issue is reviewed in some detail. Greetings from Canada.