America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Supreme Court Rules Tasing Pregnant Woman Not "Excessive Force"
By Dan Geddes
SPRINGFIELD - The US Supreme Court ruled 6-to-3 in Hartman vs. Springfield Police that use of a Taser by police is not "excessive force" provided that the officer administering the Tasing possesses "a sufficient background in psychology."
Mary Hartman, a mother of three and nine months pregnant at the time, was pulled over for speeding. She allegedly was driving 27 in a 25 mile per hour zone.
Ms. Hartman denied she was speeding, and explained to Springfield Police Officer Harry Bender that she was driving herself to the hospital to give birth to her fourth child. Officer Bender replied that “the law is the law,” and asked her to step out of the car.
After Ms. Hartman refused to step out of the car, Officer Bender told Hartman she was “obviously hysterical” and then Tased her repeatedly in full view of her three children sitting in the back seat.
Justice Scalia read the court’s decision that Officer Bender “utilized his educational background” to determine that the Ms. Hartman and was in need of some immediate shock treatment. Scalia praised Bender's "admirable restraint" in Tasing her in the leg rather than in the stomach near her imminently to-be-born baby.
Officer Bender, who received a grade of a C+ in his “Introduction to Psychology” course at Springfield Community College seven years ago, testified that he “thought she was, like, hysterical.”
Drawing on the Taser's relationship with electro-shock, an early form of psychological treatment, the Court ruled that administering a Taser shock was a kind of "on-the-spot therapy for out-of-control criminal suspects."
The ruling was lauded by Captain John Smith of Springfield Police. "The Taser is an important weapon the police officer's toolkit. We are pleased the Court did not take these important psychological tools out of our officers' hands."
Justice John Paul Jones, writing in dissent, found the term "sufficient background in psychology" to be "insufficient" "What does this mean? That they heard of Freud?"