$3 Million Verdict Upheld in Texas Wrongful Death Case

The Texas Court of Appeals recently upheld a $3 million verdict in a wrongful death case involving police brutality, stun guns and a paranoid schizophrenic who was off his medication.

A Texas mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Harris County in 2009 following the death of her 52-year-old son after he was tased 18 times by police.

According to documents filed with the court, the death of her son occurred in 2005 after police were called to transport the paranoid schizophrenic, who was off his medication, to a nearby psychiatric treatment center.

The mother had reported to her son's doctor that he was off his meds, and it was decided that he should receive inpatient treatment. But unbeknownst to his mother, the doctor's office called police to have the mentally unstable man transported. At no point during the process was the man found to be acting aggressively.

The lawsuit alleged police brutality, noting that a Taser gun was used 18 times on the 52-year-old man. In addition to the use of the stun gun, police used excessive force, handcuffing the man to bring him out of the house. Once outside, they decided to "hogtie" him before he was put into the back of the squad. His mother stood by, helpless, and watched as they threw him to the ground, one officer shoved his knee onto her son's back and another pulled his head back, breaking his neck.

When it was noticed that the man was no longer breathing, they called 911. But CPR was delayed when paramedics arrived because the man remained hogtied in the back of a squad car. He was unable to be revived.

At trial, the police department tried to reenact the event, but it was ultimately aborted after the person playing the role of the 52-year-old son was in too much pain to continue. The jury found that no reasonable officer would have used a Taser excessively against a mentally ill man, and that there was sufficient evidence of improper deadly force.

The $3 million jury verdict was upheld by the Texas appellate court just last month.

Source: Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals, "Harris County v. Nagel," 6/7/11.

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