When Valreca Redden, an expectant mother, was tased by a Trotwood police officer, the pain reverberated around the world and the debate reignited.
Does tasing constitute torture? Wrong question!
Taser International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), the maker of the electronic stun gun, have consistently defended their devices being as non-lethal, although nearly 300 people have died after being shocked. To date, the company has successfully fought the United Nations Committee Against Torture and Amnesty International, thwarted congressional inquiries, defended Eighth Amendment challenges of cruel and unusual punishment, and is currently locked into a libel suit against USA Today publisher Gannett Inc. about the mortality risk of the devices.
The subject of torture has always been a debatable issue, insofar as such techniques provoking the social consciousness of a people in society. If it does not provoke social outrage, it is not torture, according to the letter of international law.
The use of tasers, however, falls somewhere in between. Technically, the administration of electric shock is considered torture, except when used as a necessary force to subdue a violent subject.
Clearly, the video of Valreca Redden shows that she was distraught but not violent. She was distraught because she wanted to give her baby over to authorities. But when the officer hesitated and began her asking questions, the mother must have had a change of heart and decided to leave. That is when the officer stunned her.
Taser International's electronic control devices are advertised as “one of the most effective -less-than-lethal devices” used to “to safely incapacitate dangerous, combative or high-risk subjects who pose a risk to law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves.”
Unlike torture devices of the past, such as “the rack”, cattle prods, thumbscrews, etc., no one can straight out prove that police officers use stun guns for gratification of some sadistic pleasure like the Nazis during World War II. But the justified use of such devices for the purpose of subduing a resisting subject is dubious, as shown in the 2004 tasering death of Deacon Fredrick Williams.
Williams was not one of those usual suspects. He was a family man with a decent job and well respected in the community and his church. He was an epileptic having a seizure. As the Gwinnett County sheriff deputies administer 50,000 volt shocks into his body, they repeatedly demand that he “stop resisting”. (How can a man with 50,000 volts of electricity passing through his body keep still, let alone an epileptic? The electric chair only used 20,000 volts.)
In this 22 and a half minute video, watch as Williams expires in the hands of the arresting officers. Actually, he was dead within two minutes of the video. The other twenty minutes centers around the hopeless and futile attempt of the officers trying to bring him back to life. Indeed, they stunned him into submission, until he was completely subdued. But then they could not "un-subdue" him from his comatose state. For twenty minutes they stood around helplessly, with egg on their face.
According to Amnesty International, there have been 296 similar deaths related to tasing. But Taser International is in denial that it is the fault of their taser devices. On the other hand, the "electrocutioners" are in denial also. They say it is the victim’s fault- either the victim was high on drugs or had a medical predisposition. The newest psycho-babble is “excited delirium”, an overdose of adrenaline like choking on one's own spit.