Court upholds ruling: Tasers kill

A new legal blow to the maker of Tasers as controversy grows over the weapon's safety.

Taser International lost its appeal Tuesday in the most costly case against the company to date.

Last summer, a jury awarded the family of Darryl Turner, who died after being tasered, $10 million, ruling that TASER knew its weapon could kill and did not properly warn police.

On appeal, the U.S. District Court Western District of N. Carolina Charlotte Division ruled in favor of the plaintiff on all objections, but did rule the damage award "excessive" and reduced it in half to $5 million.

"This is a huge victory for safety," said plaintiff attorney John Burton, "…and people concerned that this device is being given to police with false assurances of its safety."

Burton added, "The judge viewed the evidence and said the jury was justified in its conclusion."

Dr. Douglas Zipes, an electrophysiologist who testified for the plaintiff that Tasers could kill, said the reduction of the award was fair, and that the court's ruling "totally vindicates what we said, that Taser causes sudden death and the judge accepts that concept."

There has been no comment yet from Taser International.

WCPO-TV's I-Team has been investigating the safety of Tasers since the death of 18-year-old Everette Howard of North College Hill after he was Tasered on August 6, 2011.

Nearly eight months after Howard's death, the Hamilton County Coroner's office has still not ruled on a cause of death.

A preliminary autopsy report viewed by 9 News showed the Coroner's office appeared to rule out everything but the Taser.

The late Coroner Dr. Anant Bhati said days before his recent death that his office was waiting for the opinion of a specialist who was viewing slides of Howard's heart.

Dr. Bhati said he had high respect for Dr. Zipes and that he believed Tasers could kill, though he was not ready yet to rule that a Taser did kill Everette Howard.

Tasers are electronic control weapons which send electricity into a subject for the purpose of incapacitating them, so that police officers can get them into custody without hands on contact.

The weapons are used as non-lethal force options by 16,000 police agencies globally, including here in the Tri-State.

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