Mattos v. Agarano, No. 08-15567 (9th Cir. Jan. 12, 2010) (here) is a loss for the plaintiff, but a win for the development of the law of Tasers and the Fourth Amendment.
Although the record onthis point is not as developed as we could hope for, viewingthe evidence in the light most favorable to Jayzel, we have nodifficulty concluding that the Taser stun was a serious intru-sion into the core of the interests protected by the Fourth Amendment: the right to be “secure in [our] persons.”Sort of weird that this is a debatable point. Anyone here been tasered? Wanna let me taser you?
There's a library of YouTube videos of people getting tasered. It's a nasty experience, and one which I hope to avoid. And I've been through some nasty stuff. In Army Basic Training, I got to experience the "gas chamber." Basically, go into an enclosed room full of CS gas - yeah, that's tear gas. Remove your gas mask. Have fun!
Yes, I survived. Hey, we all did. Does that mean tear gas ain't no thing?
When we're talking about holding police officers accountable, though, even the banal becomes controversial:
The defendants paint a benign portrait of the Taser,offering evidence that it has been used on over one million human subjects and has proven extremely safe, as well as evidence that the actual voltage applied to a subject’s body usesless electricity than a single bulb on a string of Christmas treelights.Over a million people have been punched in the head. Most people don't die. A punch in the head, by this logic, is extremely safe.
We don't want people punching each other in the head. Because, well, it hurts. "That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger," shouldn't supplant, "To protect and serve."
Anyhow, the plaintiff loses because no all force is excessive. There's a balancing test to be applied. Tasers, like every other instrument of pain infliction and death (jack boots, fists, guns, batons, pepper spray) may be used when the situation calls for it.
Channeling former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the panel applies a balancing test - which means it gets to do whatever it wants. The plaintiff loses.