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Tasers, Pregnant Women & SCOTUS….Opening Prosecutors’ Files and More


If the LA County Police Chiefs Association has any say in the matter, the Supremes will hear an appeal brought by three Seattle police officers who repeatedly used a Taser on a pregnant woman during a 2004 traffic stop, reports the Seattle Times.

Here’s a little of the back story, as reported a year ago by the Seattle Weekly.

Malaika Brooks was driving her 12-year-old son Jahrod to the African American Academy on Beacon Hill one morning in 2004 when a Seattle cop pulled her over. It was the beginning of a traffic infraction that has so far cost city taxpayers $345,000 in legal fees, and which left the then-pregnant Brooks with Taser scars and the determination to pursue an alleged police-brutality case for what appears to be a record seven years and counting.

Officer Juan Ornelas, who’d caught Brooks on radar, came to her window and said she’d been doing 32 in a 20-mph school zone. Brooks denied it, explaining he must have mistaken her vehicle for the black Honda that had been racing along in front of her. Brooks, then 34, handed her license to Ornelas as her son got out and walked on to school. Ornelas wrote the ticket and handed it to Brooks for her signature. She declined. Signing it, she mistakenly thought, would be an admission of guilt. Ornelas told her that if she didn’t sign the traffic ticket, he would issue a criminal citation for refusing. She could then be arrested and taken to jail.

Brooks said she wasn’t signing anything, but would accept the ticket otherwise. Ornelas then called Sgt. Steve Daman to the scene. Officer Donald Jones also showed up. When Brooks told the sergeant she wouldn’t sign, Daman told Ornelas and Jones to “book her.” Brooks was asked to step from the car. She refused. Jones then displayed a Taser stun gun and asked if she knew what it could do to her. Brooks told the officers she was pregnant. “How pregnant?” one asked. Her baby was due in two months, she said. She refused to step out.

After a discussion among the officers, Ornelas opened the driver’s door, reached in and grabbed Brooks by the left arm as Jones put the device to Brooks’ thigh in touch-stun mode and shocked her with 50,000 volts. She began honking her horn, screaming for help as she resisted. Jones quickly administered another shock to Brooks’ arm, and she stopped blowing the horn. Then he shocked her a third time, in the neck, and Brooks fell over, unable to move.

The case eventually worked its way up to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which then decided that the tasing was the use of excessive force—meaning that the way was cleared for Malaika Brooks to sue the officers in state civil court (but not in federal court).

It’s this ruling that the LA Police Chiefs—a group that includes both Chief Beck and Sheriff Baca—and the National Tactical Officers Association both found unpalatable, hence their push for an appeal, reports the Seattle Times.

The national and Los Angeles police organizations, in their brief, argued that the 9th Circuit ruling creates an “inflexible” and “unworkable” rule, “because it ignores the infinite variety of situations police officers confront on a daily basis.


The meeting with KFI 640 station management and John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of the “John and Ken Show” to discuss their calling of Whitney Houston a “crack ho,” and making other creepily disparaging remarks after her death, will take place at 2 pm Monday, with a press conference afterward.

Those meeting with Kobylt and Chiampou include:

Blair Taylor, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League
L. C. “Chris” Strudwick-Turner, Vice President of Marketing & Communications for the Los Angeles Urban League
Jasmyne Cannick, public affairs and communications strategist
Najee Ali, community activist
Kevin Ross, host of the syndicated television program ‘America’s Court with Judge Ross’, former KABC and KFI host
Kevin Ross, 20-year radio veteran and the editor of Radio Facts
Lee Bailey, 30-year radio broadcasting pioneer, founder and CEO of the Electronic Urban Report
Isidra Person Lynn, former morning show host of KACE
Dominique DiPrima, talk radio veteran and on-air personality

May some raised consciousness and a better calibrated sense of decency come out of the meeting.


And we agree.

To explain, here’s how the NY Times Sunday editorial opens:

Prosecutors have a constitutional duty to disclose significant evidence favorable to a criminal defendant. But too often that duty, as laid out by the 1963 Supreme Court decision Brady v. Maryland, is violated.

To help ensure compliance, some prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers and legal scholars have sensibly concluded that prosecutors’ files, as a general rule, should be made open to defendants. In cases where turning over evidence might endanger a witness, for example, a judge could allow an exception.

A small number of state and local governments have adopted open-file policies that require prosecutors to make available well before trial all information favorable to the defense, without regard to whether such information is likely to affect the outcome of the case. North Carolina and Ohio and places like Milwaukee have found that such policies make prosecutions fairer and convictions less prone to error. The Justice Department should join this movement and set a national example. But instead, it continues to take half-measures in response to its own failures to meet disclosure requirements.

When it is left up to prosecutors to determine what evidence is material, in too many instances Brady is violated—in what has become a highly adversarial justice system. We know this because of the frequent discoveries over the past few years of evidence withheld by prosecutors, the withheld material only coming to light after aggressive investigative work in the course of innocence cases.

Since, unlike the defense, the first obligation of the prosecution is to seek justice—not to win at all costs—the feds should have no problem fully supporting a no-holds barred embrace of the 1963 Brady decision.

it is, as the NY Times said, an important standard to uphold.


The then Indiana 6th grader participated in a ghastly crime—specifically the murder of the step-father of a 15-year old friend, who was reportedly being abused by the step-dad. In any case, the two boys shot the man dead, with a third 12-year-old waiting outside the house.

He was sentenced to 25 years in adult prison-–an outcome that a number of attorneys and supporters hope to eventually manage to change.

USA Today has the story, which originally ran in the Indianapolis Star:

Paul Henry Gingerich awoke on the morning of his 14th birthday to the sound of a voice — his prison guard. “Happy birthday,” she said.

It was 6 o’clock. Paul would just as soon been given a few more minutes to sleep. But in a place where he must ask permission to go to the bathroom, where he eats every meal under close surveillance and where birthdays aren’t much different from any other day, it was a nice gesture for one of the state’s most controversial inmates.

Paul Gingerich is believed to be the youngest person in Indiana ever sentenced to prison as an adult. He was still 12 years old when he arrived here at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, the state’s maximum security prison for children. He had such a small frame and such a baby face that one of his new teachers — the prison has a school — asked: “What is a 7-year-old doing in our facility?”

Yet Paul was also a killer. He had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder after he and a friend fired four bullets into the friend’s stepdad. Each boy received 25 years, with the possibility that, for good behavior, they could get out in about half that time. They would still be young men, but young men who had grown up in prison.

In Paul’s case, that means living in a cell with a steel door and bare block walls in a remote corner of Pendleton. Home consists of a mattress on a concrete slab, a small desk and a chair and a window spliced with thick bars. Paul’s view is of a small patch of grass, a tall fence and rolling wave of razor sharp concertina wire.

Here, in this place, Paul has grown nearly 3 inches to about 5-foot-8, sprouted peach fuzz, popped his first pimples, had his voice change and — now — marked two birthdays. It is also a place that — should his lawyer pull off an epic reversal — Paul hopes to soon leave.

If you’re thinking that the photo of Meryl Streep backstage at the Oscars, by Al Seib of the Los Angeles Times, has exactly zero to do with any of the criminal justice stories….you’re quite right of course. But it was, after all, Academy Awards night, Sunday night, and Streep’s win was one of the few surprises of an otherwise predictable evening, since equally stellar and deserving Viola Davis was considered the frontrunner.

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