Police Abuse

Supreme Court Orders New Hearings for Cop Who Tasered and Killed Handcuffed Suspect

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In its 2013 decision in Thomas v. Nugent, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit granted qualified immunity to a Louisiana police officer who repeatedly used his taser on a handcuffed suspect. That suspect subsequently died of his injuries on the way to the police station. According to the 5th Circuit, "this case does not provide an 'obvious' example of excess force" because the suspect "was arrested pursuant to an active felony warrant, attempted to evade arrest, was subdued only through the threat of deadly force, and did not comply with the officers' repeated requests to cooperate in effectuating the arrest."

In response to an appeal filed by the suspect's surviving daughter, the U.S. Supreme Court today remanded the case back to the 5th Circuit "for further consideration in light of Tolan v. Cotton." Tolan v. Cotton, as Will Baude explained at the Volokh Conspiracy, "said that the Fifth Circuit had wrongly granted summary judgment to a police officer in a civil rights case…. [B]y my count it's the first time in 10 years that the court has ruled against a police officer in a qualified immunity case."

Depending on how the 5th Circuit deals with this matter on remand, the officer may still receive qualified immunity. Either way, the dispute may well end up before the Supreme Court once more.