Robinson v. Condley, No. 14-1962 (8th Cir. June 29, 2015).
Eva Robinson and her son Matthew were arrested outside their own home for being “suspicious people walking.” They were placed inside a patrol car. Later, Matthew was asked to get out of the car. As Matthew—a big guy—was struggling to get out of the car, he was tased without warning. After he was pulled from the car, he was again tased—“at least” two more times, according to the majority of this Eighth Circuit panel.
The question in this appeal isn’t whether the officer who tased Matthew used excessive force. The question is whether another officer—Trooper Stewart Condley—can be liable for failing to intervene to prevent the tasing.
The panel majority says that Trooper Condley didn’t violate Mathew’s clearly established rights. Matthew’s mother, Eva, was understandably hysterical on seeing her son tased. Trooper Condley slammed Eva onto the front of the squad car and put her in handcuffs. “Restraining a hysterical individual on the scene and deciding not to leave the hysterical individual and intervene” did not violate clearly established law, says the majority.
Judge Murphy dissents. The record, she notes, reveals that Matthew was tased 22 times. She also notes that the video in the record shows that before restraining Eva, Condley watched a fellow officer tase Matthew without intervening. Thus, for Judge Murphy, triable questions remain on whether Eva’s behavior actually justified Condley’s non-intervention.
Judge Murphy has proved more willing than many of her Eighth Circuit colleagues to speak out when she feels that police officers’ use of tasers “merits further reflection.” The pattern continues here.