The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to take up the case of an unarmed Arkansas mother who was threatened with a Taser by a police officer who already had ordered her two young sons onto the ground and handcuffed them.
The actions by the officer, he claimed, were because he was looking for three adult males and a woman who had fled from police earlier.
The fight now is whether that officer was justified in attacking the boys, attacking the mother and threatening her.
The Institute for Justice is working on the case involving Casondra “Cassi” Pollreis.
She brought a case against the officer for unlawfully threatening her with a Taser, but lower court judges have claimed being unarmed, and being out of her house, and asking questions of the officer, could be perceived as a threat.
“The petition raises important questions concerning the Fourth Amendment’s protections against excessive force and the separate roles judges and juries play in deciding cases,” the IJ reported.
Cassi’s case began on a cold winter’s night in 2018. Her two young boys were walking home from their grandparents’ house when a police car stopped in front of them and an officer emerged with his gun drawn. Within moments, the officer started shouting “get on the ground” and proceeded to handcuff the boys and hold them at gunpoint.
Cassi noticed the commotion, and—as any mother would—attempted to defuse the situation. With her boys lying face down on the ground and the officer’s gun drawn on their backs, Cassi calmly attempted to reason with the officer. “They are my boys … Are you serious? They are 12 and 14 years-old,” she said.
He replied: “And I’m looking for two kids about this age right now.” But he wasn’t; he was looking for three grown men and a woman who’d fled from police earlier in the evening. The boys and Cassi were completely innocent, but that didn’t stop him. “Get back!” he shouted as he drew his Taser on her. “I want you to get back in your house,” he demanded. Cassi complied, not wanting to make the situation worse.
Eventually the officer’s sergeant arrived, assessed the scene, and quickly realized a mistake had been made. Minutes later he let the boys go.
The IJ said that Pollreis decided that the officer should be held to account for “threatening her with a Taser as she attempted to protect her children and defuse a tense situation.”
At the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, two judges used an inconclusive dashcam video that showed only a little of what happened to decide against her.
The IJ said such issues should be presented at trial, and decided by jurors who can watch videos, hear testimony and decide which side to believe.
“Juries are supposed to decide the facts, and judges are supposed to decide the law,” said Keith Neely, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, which represents Cassi. “The video in this case would be incredibly important evidence at a trial, but a jury will never get to see it because the appeals court denied Cassie her right to a trial of her peers.”
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