Can you believe your eyes?
March 2, 2009 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Supreme Court Enters the YouTube Age. Previous posts have shown that video is a powerful tool. Now The Supreme Court views video evidence through it's eyes. Most but not all are ready to let the video speak for itself.

"The video shows what is either appalling police brutality or a measured response to an arrested man’s intransigence — you be the judge."
posted by pianomover (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That last link should read, “I end up with Chico Marx’s old question,” Justice Breyer said. “Who do you believe — me or your own eyes?” So sorry.
posted by pianomover at 1:55 PM on March 2, 2009

Jonathan Rackard, a sheriff’s deputy, tried to lift Mr. Buckley to move him into the patrol car, but he failed. Then he threatened to use a Taser stun gun.

“I don’t care any more,” Mr. Buckley responded, disconsolate. “Tase me.”

So Deputy Rackard applied, over the course of a couple of minutes, three five-second-long 50,000-volt electrical shocks from the Taser. Between the second and third shocks, he walked to his patrol car and called for backup. Mr. Buckley stayed where he was.
“Deputy Rackard should not have to struggle to lift a heavy object like Buckley,” the brief added, “and run the risk of a work-related injury.”

posted by delmoi at 2:04 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Uh, for me the last link is recursive to this thread.
posted by Xoebe at 2:05 PM on March 2, 2009

“Deputy Rackard should not have to struggle to lift a heavy object like Buckley,” the brief added, “and run the risk of a work-related injury.”

-used as a justification for tasering a man three times from a case cited in the linked article, prompting a loud "oh fuck you!" from me, scaring the dog.

So has OSHA been adapted to include tasers?
posted by newpotato at 2:05 PM on March 2, 2009

Too bad rickrolling is old hat. Some kid about to be fired from his internship at a law office could have a lot of fun swapping videos the morning of the arguments.
posted by Science! at 2:06 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

or what delmoi said
posted by newpotato at 2:06 PM on March 2, 2009

I thought this post would be about the Supreme Court finally allowing cameras in it's chambers.
posted by ALongDecember at 2:09 PM on March 2, 2009

Re: Cameras in the Courtroom...

"Justice Souter said, ‘Over my dead body,’ and we all like Justice Souter.” --Chief Justice Roberts
posted by aswego at 2:15 PM on March 2, 2009

and we all like Justice Souter.” --Chief Justice Roberts

Somehow, I seriously doubt that.
posted by blucevalo at 2:18 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

“Eight of the jurors on this court,” Justice Stevens said, “reach a verdict that differs from the views of the judges on both the district court and the court of appeals who are surely more familiar with the hazards of driving on Georgia roads than we are.”

You tell 'em. Thousands of distraught black men litter the roads down here!

Watching the video, I'm sympathetic with both parties (I'm pretty low on cash myself right now, but really, what could the police officer do in this circumstance?), right up to the point where the taser came out. A taser should only be used as a substitute for lethal force, full stop.
posted by JHarris at 2:28 PM on March 2, 2009

posted by 7segment at 2:33 PM on March 2, 2009

posted by interrobang at 2:33 PM on March 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

The use of a Taser with the propellant cartridge removed (also called a"Drive Stun") is itself questionable if the weapon is supposed to be used only as an alternative to a sidearm.

I'm concerned that if, due to abuse like this, tasers are consequently banned, we'll return to a world where a tire iron wielding emotional wreck gets a bullet in the chest instead of the jolt that, although not without risk of it's own, would probably save his life.
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:34 PM on March 2, 2009

How long before a defence team uses a "this video evidence has been digitally manipulated" tack?

Surely it won't be long?

/you can tell by the pixels
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:59 PM on March 2, 2009

"Mr. Buckley, get up, ok? I'm fixin' to taze you..."

Mr. Buckley was sitting on the ground not offering any resistance. The officer here is wrong. Flat out wrong. Tasers should not be used to force compliance, unless that compliance is 'I need you to not charge at me like you are going to attack me, and I'd prefer it if you lay on the ground instead."

That's it.

The guy on the ground was not agreeable or willing to move, so you call in back up, and the team manhandles him into a squad car.

Once again. It doesn't matter how polite you sound, you do not taze people putatively.

As to the court using Youtube, that seems like a mistake. Things can be altered or falsified too easily. If no other video evidence is available I can see pulling files off of it and running on a separate machine as a last resort, but I would think that every effort should be spent in finding the original recording.
posted by quin at 3:14 PM on March 2, 2009

Tasers should not be used to force compliance.

Says who? So the option is to call in a heap more cops to help lift his fat non-complaint ass into the car while the first cops just sits around and waits?

Gee, lucky cops have nothing better to do, and that there's not a shortage of cops or anything, and that there's heaps of tax payers dollars to go around to help pay for all these extra man hours anyway.

Bzzzt. Move it, fatty.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:23 PM on March 2, 2009

Cause that happens all the time, uncanny hengeman. I'll bet it's wasting billions upon billions of tax dollars right now.
posted by nosila at 3:32 PM on March 2, 2009

Wow. As appalled as I am by the video, I'm even more shocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit placing its stamp of approval on this display of abuse.

From the 11th Circuit's opinion, which held that this attack on a helpless motorist was A-Okay: "For excessive force claims, “objective reasonableness” is the test.
Zivojinovich v. Barner, 525 F.3d 1059, 1072 (11th Cir. 2008). But we have noted some secondary factors to consider: “‘(1) the need for the application of force, (2)
the relationship between the need and amount of force used, and (3) the extent of
the injury inflicted.’” Draper v. Reynolds, 369 F.3d 1270, 1277-78 (11th Cir.

The 11th Circuit then goes on to explain why subjecting a handcuffed man, sitting on the ground, offering no active resistance whatsoever, to repeated electrical shock is 1) necessary, 2) proportionate to the situation, and 3) not serious enough to warrant any kind of relief from the government. The explanation? Because they were on the side of the road at night, the deputy was "in danger" by virtue of passing cars.

Danger that warranted use of a taser, a tool that could not help the deputy get the arrested man to his feet. In fact, if the taser was going to have any effect on the situation, that effect would be to make it harder, not easier, to get a hysterical, handcuffed man to stand up and walk after he was weakened by repeated electrical shock. Yet in the judgment of the 11th Circuit, this use of force, which could not have done anything to obtain the outcome the police wanted, was "objectively reasonable."

The 11th Cir. also said that the deputy could not "complete the arrest-- that is, truly control [the motorist]" because "he was resisting." The man was sitting, handcuffed on the ground. So, what, in the view of the 11th Cir., someone isn't arrested unless they're hypnotized or plugged into the Matrix, so as to be under the government's limitless control? That's absurd. The parameters for arrest are nowhere near as stringent in other contexts.

The court also says that the guy wasn't secure "because he was not bound at the feet (so, he could both run and kick)." Even if he was walking towards the car as requested, this would still be so. So, could the cop tase him if he was walking too slowly? After all, he'd still be "unsecured" and there'd still be the "danger" of being hit by a passing car.

The 11th Cir. also makes much of the fact that the deputy warned the motorist before shocking him. That's nice, but it underscores the problem, rather than mitigating it. This use of a taser wasn't "necessary" for self-defense of any kind; it was used as a cudgel to elicit compliance on threat of torture from a man who obviously wasn't in a reasonable frame of mind. To me, it seems more likely the deputy shocked the motorist just out of spite. In either case, it's resorting to the infliction of excruciating pain to resolve a situation devoid of imminent danger or pressing emergency.

Lastly, the court tries to minimize the motorist's injuries, saying that all he got were some small burns and scarring. Waterboarding produces fewer long-term physical effects than that. Let's try explaining to the victims of waterboarding that what happened to them isn't that bad.

The judiciary is supposed to be the conscience of the government. I am absolutely askance that a panel of appellate judges would so brazenly ignore their responsibilities as the last bastion of decency and restraint against the executive branch. If this had happened to a member of their families, I wonder if they'd take such a cavalier perspective on the matter.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 4:04 PM on March 2, 2009 [6 favorites]

Says who? So the option is to call in a heap more cops to help lift his fat non-complaint ass into the car while the first cops just sits around and waits?

Two reasons:

1. A tazer is potentially lethal force. Sitting unhelpfully on the ground or otherwise being an asshole is not grounds to play russian roulette with accidental execution.

2. The cultural repercussion of legitimizing the use of extreme (and potentially deadly) force by police against clearly non-threatening suspects means that you don't get "Bzzzt. Move it fatty" without also getting revenge/bullying/sadism/racism/hate tazerings, beatings, and torture against people for no grounds other than an officer taking a dislike to them. And those beaten will not have recourse against abuse. If it's legitimate to use extreme force against non-threatening suspects, there is almost no situation in which massive abuse couldn't be perpetrated with little risk of justice.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:40 PM on March 2, 2009

A taser is not only potentially lethal force, it's a use of torture to induce compliance.

We need to put a stop to it.
posted by empath at 5:29 PM on March 2, 2009

I am absolutely askance that a panel of appellate judges would so brazenly ignore their responsibilities as the last bastion of decency and restraint against the executive branch.

I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here the 11th circuit. I mean, let's be honest about who we're talking about. I'm not defending this decision (and it's probably going to be a long time until the 11th Cir. writes something worth defending), but this is hardly shocking.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:32 PM on March 2, 2009

I think it's an interesting exercise to watch these kind of videos and replace the victim with someone close to you.

Do you say "move it, fatty" when they're tasing your mother?
posted by The Hamms Bear at 7:54 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Great article on this topic can be read in: Ronald Collins & David Skover, Paratexts, 44 Stan. L. Rev. 509. Or you can direct link if you have Lexis.
posted by Maztec at 8:00 PM on March 2, 2009

Uh, "Move it, fatty?" (Troll much, uncanny hengeman?)
posted by aught at 6:46 AM on March 3, 2009

That's really a beautiful example of insufficient training, it seems to me. I was impressed by the cop addressing the man in a polite manner. It seemed clear to me that the cop did not want to use the taser. It also seemed to me that the cop was totally befuddled by the situation. I get the impression that he wasn't trained in dealing with traffic violators breaking down into emotional wrecks.

Folks in law enforcement are going to have to learn: times have changed. Things are rough. Too rough for Joe Public to be taking a bunch of meaningless extra crap from some some lucky bastard with a public job, while they, the public, struggle.
posted by Goofyy at 12:06 PM on March 3, 2009

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