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Family Wins $10 Million In Taser Case

Family Wins $10 Million In Taser Case

Flikr | User: Kathryn in SF

The Boston Herald via YellowBrix

July 21, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Taser International must pay $10 million to the family of a Charlotte teenager who died in 2008 after being shocked by a police officer — the biggest jury award ever against the company.

The lawyers for Darryl Turner’s parents said Wednesday the federal jury found that Taser International failed to warn that discharging its Taser into the chest of a suspect near the heart poses a substantial risk of cardiac arrest. The company’s animal studies, they said, demonstrated the risk.

John Burton, lead counsel for Turner’s parents, Devoid Turner and Tammy Lou Fontenot, said Taser International has been irresponsible in representing the safety of its products.

“Hopefully, this verdict will sound the alarm to police officers around the world that firing these weapons into the chests of people should be avoided,” said Burton, whose law offices are in Pasadena, Calif. “No other family should have to endure the tragedy that the Turner and Fontenot families have experienced.”

Taser International sought to convince the jury that Turner, 17, had a medical condition that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest in young adults. The company’s lawyers also presented evidence about a U.S. Justice Department study, released in May, which said current research does not support a substantially increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia even if the Taser darts strike the front of the chest.

The company’s lawyers intend to appeal the verdict.

Darryl Turner died in March 2008 after being shocked with a Taser by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Jerry Dawson Jr. at a Food Lion grocery store in north Charlotte.

Turner, who worked at the store, died from cardiac arrest. The autopsy showed the teenager’s heart was pumping so fast and chaotically from the Taser shot and stress from the confrontation that it stopped pumping blood properly. The autopsy found no pre-existing heart problems.

Dawson was not charged with any crime. Prosecutors said the officer was justified in using the Taser during the confrontation with Turner, who was found with three small bags of marijuana in his socks after the incident.

Dawson was suspended for five days without pay and required to undergo additional training. Police said Dawson had violated policy when he shocked Turner with the Taser gun for about 37 seconds. Dawson held the trigger until Turner fell to the floor, according to police.

The city of Charlotte paid $625,000 to Turner’s family in 2009, though the city denied wrongdoing. It was the largest police-related claim the city had paid out in nearly a decade.

City Attorney Mac McCarley told the The Charlotte Observer Wednesday that the city will continue to use Tasers.

“It is still a very effective, nonlethal force to control a situation,” McCarley said. After Turner’s death, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police mandated additional training for all officers on the proper use of Tasers and other electronic control devices, said spokesman Rob Tufano. The training “emphasized that repeated and prolonged deployment and exposure of the device is a strict violation of department policy,” Tufano said. Police also trained personnel to look for other areas of the body to target with Tasers, such as the lower abdomen and upper leg.

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  • Me_and_sommer3_max50


    almost 3 years ago


    Why is it always the offiers fault. It's never the bad guys fault that doesn't comply or resisting arrest. Same thing with pursuits when the perp wrecks out its the officers fault for chasing him. It's never his fault for running. WFT?

  • Sspx0013_-resized_max50


    about 3 years ago



  • Respect_max50


    about 3 years ago


    I've taken the "ride" myself. 37 seconds is a training issue. But, I still do NOT think the tasering contributed to the death....I will bet a case of beer that it was excited delierium.....

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    bump FireHouseRock, TopCat

  • Justice-400_max50


    about 3 years ago


    It depends on the full situation. Was it 37 consecutive seconds? That would be too much unless he believed the guy had a gun in his hand and wanted to use it. Was it 37 seconds through eight different shocks? That may be reasonable if this officer was on their own and the guy kept getting up when the 5 second cycle would stop. With multiple officers I would expect tase, attempt to handcuff, tase if resistance is there, continue handcuffing attempts, so on and so forth. I haven't heard all the details of what was going on, so I'm not passing any judgment.

    But, a jury of my peers did pass judgment, and I'll respect that their verdict was what I would have decided.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    A 37 second TASER cycle is abusive.
    No TASER training that I've attended advocated
    a 37 second cycle. Implement one 5 second cycle, direct
    the perp to comply and if there's no compliance,
    initiate a second 5 second cycle.

  • Plce_max50


    about 3 years ago


    People should not be executed for failing to comply. It's not quite that simple. Running an electric current through a person's body for 37 seconds is reckless. This is a good verdict, because it will improve the standards of law enforcement.

  • Xoxosmile_max50


    about 3 years ago


    An officer commanded him to do something and he didn't comply. I don't think there is anything more to say. Very bad verdict.

  • Plce_max50


    about 3 years ago


    At the time of this young teen's death, Tasers were marketed as non-lethal weapons. Clearly, in this case, as in others, the Taser proved to be a lethal weapon instead.

    Teens should not be summarily executed for possessing marijuana and resisting. This is a good verdict which will reverberate around the country, and ensure that police officers and the manufacturers of police equipment are held to the highest possible standards.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago

    Bump coshane220. I was tasered for 5 seconds twice in training. Which is no where close to the time ne tasered.

  • Cops4christ_max50


    about 3 years ago


    i have been tasered three times!!! the full 5 second twice and once for 1 second...i think the problem here is the 37 seconds!!!! everytime i show my taser, which has been 4 times this week alone, i make the statement that a pull and release is 5 seconds however if you choose to hold down the trigger, it will continue until your finger goes to sleep or the battery runs out...

    37 seconds was wayyyyy to much...i have tasered two people and have seen many others tasered and never have we needed 37

    like someone else said, it sounds like a training issue...deploy the taser and move in as soon as possible to affect an arrest...DON'T HOLD THE TRIGGER FOR 37 SECONDS!

  • Joefriday_max50


    about 3 years ago


    “Hopefully, this verdict will sound the alarm to police officers around the world that firing these weapons into the chests of people should be avoided,” said Burton, whose law offices are in Pasadena, Calif"

    Wow talk about chasing an ambulance a long way........

  • Meangreen01_max50


    about 3 years ago


    This is just stupid.

  • Absolutelawenf_max50


    about 3 years ago


    37 seconds may be a little excessive but that sounds like a training issue. If it took that long to get lockup he had a bad or no connection for nearly all 37 sec. So for anyone who has never been dont feel anything with a bad connection so IMO based on the information the duration should not have been a factor in the fatality.

  • Picture_100_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Bad decisions = bad outcomes. The police did not taze him for fun. I am sorry to see the ruling.

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