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Taser Death Sparks Lawsuit

Posted on May 1, 2008

We’;ve had a rash of them lately. 

Law enforcement is fast to turn to tasers or stun guns to deliver between 20,000 and 150,000 volts of electricity to subdue agitated citizens.

The problem is the jolt delivers on average 50,000 volts that penetrates the skin and shock the heart and has been known to sometimes can turn fatal.

That is what’;s alleged to have happened to 56-year-old Emily Delafield.

In 2006 her family alleges she was having a mental health crisis. Delafield, a schizophrenic, called police to her home saying that relatives were out to harm her.  She was found sitting in her wheelchair in the street holding a hammer and kitchen knives.

Two officers from Green Cove Springs, Florida, southwest of Jacksonville,  decided to take out the taser to bring the situation under control. 

They applied the shocks for a total of 121 seconds, enough time her family says to contribute to her death, which had been ruled a homicide.  Delafield also suffered from obesity, an enlarged heart and high blood pressure.

The officers were not trained well enough to handle a mental health crisis and did so with unnecessary, excessive force her nephew says in his federal suit against the city and the two police officers.

Delafield’;s civil rights were violated, Ryan Delafield says of his aunt who he says was a church going person who liked to write poetry and had a kind heart.  

Even though they are generally labeled “Non Lethal”, tasers are known to penetrate the skin.

Some say the voltage is not significant, especially because it has to pass through clothing, but too many cases of cardiac arrest have followed the application of tasers to deny the link.

Defibrillators use about 160 volts so it’;s ridiculous to think that the tasers are not going to interrupt even a healthy heart beat. 

Canada does not allow them to be used by civilians as we do in the U.S.. 50 deaths have been attributed to the use of tasers since 2001, critics say.

That suit will have to contend with a ruling by the State Attorney’;s office which decided the officers actions were justified because the woman was carrying deadly weapons.

The personal injury lawyers at Farah & Farah also have expertise in wrongful death cases. Call our downtown Jacksonville offices.