A Georgia man has filed a lawsuit alleging that sheriff’s deputies in Savannah, Georgia deactivated a medical device that controls the symptoms of his Tourette’s Syndrome, despite his protestations for them to accommodate the device during their screening process after a drug arrest:
[Charles] Ray was arrested in July 2010 on drug possession charges and taken to the Chatham County jail.
At the jail, he says, deputies made him pass through a metal detector that shut down his deep brain stimulator, a battery-operated device that controls his Tourette’s symptoms.
”Upon being transported to his cell, plaintiff advised the sheriff’s deputies which were escorting him that he should not go through the scanning device as it would affect the batteries in his Tourette’s device and render it useless,” the complaint states. “The deputies did not heed plaintiff’s warning and forced him to go through the scanning device, which in fact did turn off his Tourette’s device and cause the symptoms of Tourette’s to evidence themselves, including jerking of his arms and legs, facial tics, and other neurological actions which evidenced a lack of control on plaintiff’s part.”
Ray warned the deputies beforehand that he needed the device and that the metal detector would cause it to malfunction. According to Ray, they made him go through anyway, and the device did in fact malfunction:
”After the metal detector turned the battery off that charged the electrodes for the brain mapping, the plaintiff could not control his physical and verbal actions and the deputies ignored his protestations, and when he failed to control himself, he was beaten,” the complaint states. “He was tied to a chair and made to stay there for hours without benefit of food, water or bathroom privileges. While abusing the plaintiff by beating him and kicking him, the deputies considered it a form of amusement and laughed at his protestations.
This particular allegation is endearing:
”The defendant’s deputies, including Officer Floyd Jackson, head of the mental ward, sought to cover up their action by writing false reports that laid the blame on plaintiff, contending that he beat himself against the wall, thereby causing his many injuries.”
These are only allegations, and pleadings are usually drafted in such a manner as to make the opposing party look as bad as possible. Still, most self-respecting lawyers wouldn’t take a claim like this to court without a good faith basis for the allegation. Given the amount of security at corrections facilities, there’s probably a security tape somewhere that will corroborate the Plaintiff’s story. If so, I imagine this will be an open and shut case. Law enforcement officials have broad discretion to maintain security at holding facilities, but they can’t put peoples’ life and well-being at risk in pursuit of institutional safety. Imagine if the device was a pacemaker instead of a deep brain stimulator. If fourth amendment reasonableness means anything, it means not forcing people to walk through a metal detector when it puts their life at risk. As Justice Kennedy reminded us earlier this year, they could’ve just settled for humiliating him by forcing him to strip naked in front of a room full of strangers, and spread his anus so they can look inside. Which is obviously the more reasonable option. Obviously.