U.S. Ninth Circuit - The FindLaw 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Las Vegas Tased to Death Case Revived on Appeal

In a rare bit of good fortune for the family of Anthony Jones, who, in 2010, was tased to death by law enforcement officers, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in their favor, reviving the case.

Mr. Jones's case is rather tragic as he was tased for nearly two minutes straight while being allegedly subdued, after fleeing a traffic stop. At one point, he was being tased by more than one officer concurrently. After all the tasing stopped (when an officer arriving at the scene told the others to stop), Mr. Jones died immediately.

Dismissed on a Technicality

Making matters worse, the lower federal district court dismissed the seemingly obvious excessive force case on a seeming technicality involving the dead man's estate attaching the wrong party under Nevada law. More shocking than anything is that the federal district court failed to give leave to amend to add the correct party. Thankfully, the Ninth Circuit stepped in to call an abuse of discretion an abuse of discretion.

More Than Just a Technicality

The case against the officers was not just dismissed due to the procedural technicality, but also on grounds of qualified immunity, which required the lower court to review some factual evidence concerning the merits. However, the Ninth Circuit reversed on those grounds as well, ruling that the question of immunity must go to a jury, as plaintiffs had carried their burden on summary judgment.

The opinion painstakingly details Mr. Jones's tragic death, and it is rather difficult to read, but the details make it clear that qualified immunity cannot apply at the summary judgment stage. The officers applied such a clearly excessive amount of taser that chalking it up to "police being police" simply isn't possible as a matter of law: it's a question of fact for a jury to decide.

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