Police, Tasers & Teenagers

Policeman with taser

Police use Tasers as a non-lethal alternative to firearms.  However, Tasers used against teenagers often result in permanent injury or death.  In 2012, the human rights advocacy group Amnesty International reported that Taser devices used by U.S. law enforcement has killed at least 500 people.  In November 2013, a Texas high school student suffered a severe brain injury after a Texas sheriff’s deputy tasered him while the teen was trying to break up a fight in a school hallway.  After being tasered, Noe Nino de Rivera struck his head on the floor as he fell and suffered a sever brain hemorrhage.  The unconscious teen was immediately handcuffed, but it is alleged the police delayed in calling for medical assistance.  Eventually, the teen was airlifted to a hospital and put into a medically induced coma.  The teenager’s mother, Maria Acosta, has sued the Bastrop County, its police department, and its school district after the tragic accident.  Acosta is seeking medical expenses and damages for use of excessive force, failure to train and discipline, and civil rights and education code violations.

Similarly, Andre Little, an African-American teenager, is suing the city of Richmond, CA after a police officer allegedly tasered him in the testicles.  According to Little, he was waiting for a train when Officer Kristopher Tong moved toward him and asked if he was involved with a group of teens that had been previously detained for questioning.  After denying any association with the group, Officer Tong told Little to move to another section of the platform.  After Little refused to move, Tong and another officer allegedly pulled him to the ground, tasered Little in the scrotum, and then placed him on his stomach and tasered his back.  U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ruled that Little did not sufficiently prove that Tong singled the teen out or was motivated by race; however, Little will be offered an opportunity to amend his suit.

Likewise, an 18-year-old graffiti artist, Israel Hernandez-Llach, died after being tasered by a Miami Beach police officer on August 10, 2013 in Miami Beach, Florida.  Hernandez-Llach, who had other artworks on display in Miami art galleries, was spray-painting a McDonald’s restaurant when the police ordered him to stop.  A brief foot pursuit ensued, ending in the police tasering Hernandez-Llach after he refused to stop running.  Sadly, the young man died shortly after being tasered.  Further, according to the family’s attorney, Jason Kreiss, Hernandez-Llach would have likely only faced a few hours of community service for the offense of spray-painting, further demonstrating the disparity between the offense and the result of using a Taser against a teenager.

Lastly, during “Career day” at Tularosa New Mexico Intermediate School in 2012, a police officer used his Taser gun on a 10-year-old boy to show him what cops do to people who don’t follow orders.  Allegedly, Officer Chris Webb of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, asked a group of boys if they would like to clean his patrol unit.  A number of boys said that they would; however, R.D. jokingly responded that he did not want to clean the patrol unit.  Officer Webb then allegedly pointed his Taser at R.D. and said, “Let me show you what happens to people who do not listen to the police.”  Next, the officer fired two barbs from the Taser at R.D.’s chest.  Then, instead of calling emergency medical services, Officer Webb pulled out the barbs and took the boy to the school principal’s office.  Due to the incident, R.D. has scars and has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Rachel Higgins, R.D.’s guardian ad litem, has sued the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and Officer Webb and is seeking punitive damages for the boy for battery, failure to render emergency medical care, excessive force, unreasonable seizure, and negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention.

These are only a few of the numerous instances when Taser use has gone horribly wrong.  This leads to several questions:

  • Are Tasers inappropriate to use against juveniles?
  • Should school police be banned from using Tasers against juveniles?
  • Is it appropriate to use Tasers when results from their use are unpredictable?

Photo:  A policeman with the Taser X26 model.  (AFP Photo / Jean-Pierre Muller)

Judge Rules Sperm Donor Is Legal Father Of Child Born To Lesbian Couple

In Topeka, Kansas a judge has deemed that a man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple is the legal father of the child produced because a licensed doctor was not involved in the insemination. Now the man, William Marotta, must pay child support. Marotta responded to a Craigslist add posted by Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer in 2009. For $50 Marotta agreed to provide sperm to the lesbian couple. Without seeking legal advice, Marotta and the couple signed a document stating that Marotta was not to be responsible for the child.

Schreiner and Bauer separated within a year after the birth of their daughter. Schreiner sought financial aid from the state to help her support the child and listed “donor” as the child’s father. Determining that Marotta was not an anonymous donor, the Kansas Department for Children and Families demanded he pay child support.

Schreiner and Bauer purport themselves to be the child’s parents, but the judge disagreed. Because proper protocol was not followed in the insemination, the judge said Marotta cannot be considered just a donor. Specifically, they did not follow state law which requires the use of a physician for artificial insemination and the signing of certain documents. The judge stated, “The court is bound by the ordinary meaning and plain language of (state law) and it may not look the other way simply because the parties intended a different result than that afforded by the statute.”

It is unknown whether Marotta will appeal the ruling.

Children and Identity Theft

http://green-mom.com/topics/child-and-baby/international-adoption-at-all-time-low.html#.UlwDHRB4jmg

A new law, effective this New Year’s Day, will make it more difficult for children to become the victims of identity theft or credit card abuse.  Senate Bill 60 is the result of a recent rise in children being targeted for such offenses.

A child’s social security number can be used by identity thieves to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live.

Children are an especially vulnerable population to identity thieves, who consider a child’s personal identifying information more valuable than that of an adult.  This is because adults are more likely to be keeping tabs on their information. Adults monitor bank statements, pay bills, shop with their credit cards, all of these things that are likely to alert someone to identity theft.

The new law allows parents to freeze the consumer and credit files of their children 16 year of age or younger.

According to the Federal Trade Commission there are warning signs that your child’s credit has been compromised. For example, you or your child might:

  • be turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using your child’s Social Security number
  • get a notice from the IRS saying the child didn’t pay income taxes, or that the child’s Social Security number was used on another tax return
  • get collection calls or bills for products or services you didn’t receive