The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals defied established Supreme Court precedent by holding that officers were entitled to summary judgment, relieving them from facing trial on a claim of excessive force after tasing to death an unarmed Black man who was on the ground and being handcuffed, according to a petition filed today by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.
LDF, Wiggins Childs, Pantazis, Fisher & Goldfarb, LLC, and Schnapper-Casteras PLLC filed the petition on behalf of Gladis Callwood, whose 25-year-old son, Khari Illidge, was killed in 2013 by a Lee County, Alabama, deputy sheriff. The deputy tased Mr. Illidge, who was suspected of trespassing, 13 times while Mr. Illidge was unarmed, on the ground, and in the process of being arrested by two other officers. After 19 total tasings, Mr. Illidge died from cardiac arrest. The repeated taser use violated taser guidelines and police training, and an officer on the scene testified that the only reason for the deputy to continually tase Mr. Illidge after he was already on the ground would have been to cause him pain and shut down his nervous system.
“Officers responded to an unarmed Black man in mental health crisis by using extreme force that had no purpose other than to inflict pain. Using force in this way serves no legitimate law enforcement purpose and clearly violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable seizures,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel at LDF. “The Supreme Court should review this case to correct the Eleventh Circuit’s extreme interpretation of qualified immunity, which leaves police officers unaccountable for clear constitutional violations and conflicts with decisions from multiple other appellate courts.”
The petition argues that the Supreme Court should review and reverse the Eleventh Circuit’s decision because it goes against established Supreme Court precedent holding that police can use force during arrest only if it serves a legitimate purpose, conflicts with the decisions from three other circuits that have faithfully applied Supreme Court precedent, and ignores evidence that showed the officers tased Mr. Illidge for no reason but to inflict pain.
Read the full petition here.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.