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Friday, May 29, 2009

No knowing how many times Taser made contact with man, inquest told

It's like a re-run. Same old dog and pony show - the taser fan club song and dance at the coroner's inquest has become the norm. Tell me, when will we hear from Christine Hall, excited-delirium expert extraordinaire?

I suppose it would be too much to hope that the sudden "intermission" in this coroner's inquest will give this corrupt process a chance to have some oversight through the newly announced STRONGER, MORE ACCOUNTABLE CORONER SYSTEM IN ONTARIO, which promises:

The establishment of an oversight council for Ontario's death investigation system
An improved complaints system under the oversight council
The establishment of an Ontario Forensic Pathology Service
A registry of pathologists authorized to conduct coroner's autopsies in Ontario
Improved death investigation services to northern and First Nations communities.

May 29, 2009
Posted By KARENA WALTER, St. Catharine's Standard

The police Taser used in a confrontation with James Foldi was discharged 12 times, but there is no way of knowing from the device how often it made contact with his body.

A coroner’s inquest was told Friday the Taser was activated over a period of three minutes and five seconds as Foldi ran from and struggled with police in a Beamsville neighbourhood.

The 39-year-old, who lived in the neighbourhood, died July 1, 2005, after a bizarre night of breaking into houses, calling for help and at one point jumping through a window.

A pathologist ruled his death was caused by excited delirium brought on by acute cocaine poisoning.

It will be up to a jury to make the final determination. Coroner’s inquests are mandatory when someone dies in police custody.

The Foldi inquest was supposed to continue next week, but because of a scheduling problem will continue at a later, undetermined date. The last witness was giving testimony Friday when the inquest broke for the day.

Chris Lawrence from the Canadian Police Research Centre, an expert in use of force and excited delirium, prepared a report that said police actions in the Foldi case were consistent with prudent practises.

Backing away from Foldi instead of arresting him may not have been the best option for officers because he was bleeding, Lawrence said.

“Waiting may not be in his best interest. It’s a very hard call to make.”

Lawrence presented downloaded information from the Taser used on Foldi that morning.

He told the jury Tasers are one of the few weapons that record data, such as how long it was used and when, but it cannot determine whether it made contact.

Niagara Regional Police Sgt. Richard Ciszek testified earlier in the week that he deployed the Taser twice in the probe mode when Foldi was running. He applied the Taser, set on stun mode, five times to Foldi’s calves and thighs while Foldi was struggling with officers on the ground between a garage and fence.

Ciszek, who was holding Foldi’s ankles while other officers tried to handcuff him, said he also discharged the Taser in the air to see if it was working, because it didn’t seem to have an effect.

The other four discharges have been unaccounted.

Lawrence said Friday that it’s been well-documented that while an officer is gripping a subject with one hand and a Taser in the other, he or she can inadvertently pull the trigger without touching the person.

During the time Foldi was on the ground, the Taser was discharged over a 97-second period and was only off for 13 seconds.

Jurors heard earlier in the week from the other three officers who were involved in the struggle with Foldi on the ground. One officer heard the Taser go off once and the other two officers didn’t hear it at all.

Lawrence testified that as circumstances become more intense for officers and their concern about the outcome more pertinent and focused, it’s possible for them to block out information around them.

There are a number of incidents in which officers didn’t hear a gun fire next to them or even hear their own gun, he said.

“One person can be on the legs, another at the waist and one officer doesn’t see the other there.”

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