Deceased Inmate's Mother Files Suit Against Harris County and Taser International

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Two years after Daryl Kelley died after being Tasered by Harris County Sheriff’s deputies, his mother has filed a suit against the county, Taser International, and un-named deputies.

On January 13, 2006, deputies Tasered Kelley, 29, multiple times while he was being held in Harris County Jail. Kelley, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, had been arrested two weeks prior, for stealing a car. County officials have said the six-foot, 280-lb. Kelley became disruptive and refused to take his medication.

According to the Sheriff’s custodial death report, filed the day Kelley died, the jail’s six-person emergency response team was called to escort Kelley from his cell to a different floor. When Kelley became combative, according to officials, the deputies Tasered him.

The Harris County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report notes abrasions on his head, neck, hip, right arm, and both hands and wrists. (Some of the injuries were described as being partially healed). The cause of death was listed as “psychotic delirium associated with hypertensive cardiovascular disease.” His manner of death was listed as “natural.” (In the Sheriff’s Office custodial death report, filed the day Kelley died, the incident was referred to as “death in custody (heart stopped beating).”)

Curiously, the report also states that Kelley had a “history of sudden death following episode of exacerbated psychosis.” (It does not explain how a person can have a “history” of sudden death).

Harold Dutton Jr., representing Kelley’s mother, Pearline, says Harris County violated Daryl Kelley’s “Constitutional rights not to be injured, and certainly not to be killed” because there is no policy regarding how many times deputies can Taser a person. There is also no policy as to how and if Tasers should be used on people with certain health conditions, he says.

Dutton (who is a state representative, district 142) also says Tasers should be considered medical devices – like defibrillators -- and therefore should be subject to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

“Taser International failed to abide by the requirements under the FDA for testing of a medical device,” he says of the Arizona-based company.

The FDA defines a medical device, in part, as a product “intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals” without the use of “chemical action.” It is also states that a medical device is “intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.” – Craig Malisow

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