USA – Pittsburg, California Taser case damages award [$600,000] upheld (2013-03-02)

Published on March 2 2013 by admin

[[Summary / Comments: A federal appeals court has upheld $250,000 in damages to a Pittsburg man, Frederick Jackson, who was shot three times by three police offciers and hospitalized after an angry and profane exchange with a police officer were judged to have retaliated against Mr Jackson for exercising his right of free speech outside a neighbor’s home in 2008. The Ninth Court judge added an award of nearly $350,000 in attorneys’ fees.]]

San Francisco Chronicle, by Bob Egelko

A federal appeals court has upheld $250,000 in damages to a Pittsburg man who was shot with a Taser by police and hospitalized after an angry and profane exchange outside a neighbor’s home in 2008.

A jury found that Pittsburg officers had used excessive force on Frederick Jackson and that one officer, Gerald Lombardi, had retaliated against Jackson for exercising his right of free speech.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup threw out the excessive-force verdict, saying court decisions as of 2008 would not have informed police that Taser use in such circumstances was excessive. But he preserved the damages against Lombardi, finding that the right to speak freely without punishment was clearly established.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Alsup’s ruling Friday, including an additional award of nearly $350,000 in attorneys’ fees.

Police were called to the home of Jackson’s neighbor in the Contra Costa County community in March 2008 after a fight broke out at a party. Told to look for a shirtless black man, they found Jackson, who fit that description, and told him to put up his hands.

Jackson’s teenage daughter then started screaming that he had done nothing and they should leave him alone. According to witnesses, one officer told her to shut up, using a profanity, and Jackson, using similar language, told him not to swear at the girl. Lombardi then told Jackson to shut up or he would use his Taser, and did so after Jackson talked back, witnesses said.

Jackson, whose body contacted one of the officers as he turned, was shot with Tasers by all three officers, the court said. He fell on his face, suffered a broken orbital bone in his eye socket and was hospitalized for five days. He was arrested in the incident but was not prosecuted.

Peter Edrington, a lawyer for Pittsburg and its officers, called the ruling “a gross miscarriage of justice,” but said no decision had been made about whether to appeal.

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