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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

$145M suit in Maryland taser death will go to trial

November 10, 2010
Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Four years after a 20-year-old man died after being shocked twice by a Maryland sheriff's deputy's Taser, a federal appeals court has ruled the family's $145 million lawsuit can go to trial.

WTOP has learned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond has dismissed an appeal from the Frederick County Sheriff's Office, the Board of County Commissioners and Rudy Torres, the deputy sheriff who administered two shocks to Jarrel Gray while trying to break up a fight in November 2007.

"This case is going to trial," says attorney Ted Williams, who represents Jarrel Gray's parents Jeffrey Gray and Tanya Thomas in the civil wrongful death lawsuit.

"We're appreciative the court noted in its ruling that the defendants manufactured a claim that we'd never made in a lower court," Williams says.

In its appeal, Frederick County officials had argued Torres should have been entitled to qualified immunity because the shockings occurred during his performance of duty.

However, the court ruled the appeal was based on an argument the Gray family had never made in its filings or oral arguments.

"Merely alleging that death resulted from Defendant's use of excessive force is not equivalent to alleging a wrongful death claim," wrote Senior Circuit Judge Bobby Baldock, of the Tenth Circuit, in a concurring opinion.

An autopsy showed Gray's sudden death was caused by a combination of police restraint, including the electric shocks, and alcohol intoxication.

The judge in Frederick County will set a trial date for next year, Williams says.

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