Stun gun death case ruling upheld by appeals court

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — A federal appeals court panel has denied a Mississippi family’s request to reinstate their multimillion dollar wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Cleveland, Miss., and two police officers.

The lawsuit was filed by the family of Jermaine Williams, who died in 2010 after being jolted twice by police stun guns. The family sought $25 million in damages.

Williams, 30, died July 23, 2010, in a confrontation with two officers responding to a call about loiterers.

Authorities said officers found what they believed to be a bag of cocaine, which Williams allegedly grabbed and ran. Officers used the stun guns to subdue Williams when he became combative.

Williams died later at a local hospital.

City officials said experts had trained officers on the use of stun guns.

U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock in north Mississippi dismissed the lawsuit in 2012, ruling that the officers’ conduct did not rise to the level of reckless disregard. She also dismissed the family’s product liability claim against the stun gun manufacturer.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld Aycock’s ruling.

The panel said Williams’ family failed to show how the city of Cleveland’s training program for officers on the use of stun guns was defective.

The family also argued officers used excessive force by using a stun gun and chokehold to subdue Williams. The 5th Circuit panel said experts on both sides disagreed on that issue.

The panel said the court record showed Williams fled the scene with drugs in hand, was non-compliant, was warned about being shot with the stun gun and ignored the warning. The panel said Williams remained unfazed after being shot and physically struggled with the officers.

“The undisputed facts lead us to the legal conclusion that the force exercised against Williams was, under the circumstances reflected in the record, reasonable,” the panel said.