The US Supreme Court ordered a federal appeals court Monday to reexamine a case involving the alleged use of excessive force by a police officer in Louisiana who deployed an electronic Taser device eight times against a handcuffed arrestee who was lying on the ground, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The suspect, who later died, had reportedly refused to obey a police command to stand up and walk to the patrol car. The police officer was fired for using unnecessary force, but was found not guilty of manslaughter.
A panel of the New Orleans-based Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently ruled that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity and could not be sued for allegedly violating the rights of the handcuffed prisoner. The appeals court said that it was not clearly established in American law that such conduct by a police officer would violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. In a summary order on Monday, the high court vacated that decision and sent the case back with instructions that the appeals court comply with a Supreme Court decision issued two weeks ago in a case called Tolan v. Cotton.