Tortured In Buffalo

No, torture is not intended as a commentary on merely being in Buffalo, though some might disagree with me.  But Ryan Smith, who was tasered by a coterie of cops who put their very best thoughts together and decided a good tasering was the brilliant method of obtaining compliance with a court order for another DNA sample after the first was lost, was looking at torture straight in the eye, according to his lawyer, Patrick Balkin. 

From the Buffalo News :


Friday, wrapping up a hearing on the Taser case, Balkin repeatedly called the use of the stun gun “torture.”

He said testimony from four of the five police officers at the scene established that Smith was handcuffed and sitting on the floor when the Taser was used.

“No defendant has ever been brought before a court for contempt in the United States where a judge ordered them Tasered to comply,” Balkin said. “We have 100 years of [collective] police experience with these officers and this is the best they can do, to Taser a handcuffed client?”

Balkin quoted Detective James Galie as saying, “Ryan, we’re going to do this again and again until you comply.”


While there was no testimony to this effect, the general understanding in Buffalo is that waterboarding is unacceptable because the water would freeze before filling anyone’s lungs.  This, unfortunately, limits the options.

Of course, the prosecution, by ADA Susan B. Bjornholm, wasn’t without its arguments in support of the decision by police to use a little “persuasion”:

“The people believe the evidence in this case was legally obtained,” Bjornholm said. “[Smith’s] DNA was found at the scene of a horrific crime where a person was shot and children were duct-taped.”

And yet, they do conduct the occasional trial in Buffalo to determine whether people are guilty or not, circular reasoning notwithstanding.

But the better argument came to me via our hinterlands correspondent, Kathleen, who informs that she learned from Balkin the prosecution’s best argument in the hearing:

We  use electricity in the courtroom all the time.

You can’t make this stuff up, though one has to wonder how this line didn’t make it into the Buffalo News article.  I’m shocked Bjornholm didn’t invoke the memory of Old Sparky.  Ah, if chairs could talk.  But I digress.

What cannot be explained is the prosecution’s inexcusable failure to raise the really strong arguments in favor of using a taser as “the great persuader,” given that corrections officers in Florida are happy totase their own children just for fun, when “43 children were directly and indirectly shocked by electric stun guns during simultaneous Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day events at three Florida state prisons last month.”  Aside from the weather, is Tallahassee really all that different from Buffalo?  I mean, 50,000 volts is still 50,000 volts, right? 

Following the lengthy hearing, the court reserved decision.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza on Friday gave herself two weeks to decide whether to allow prosecutors to use a DNA sample taken from a Niagara Falls man after he was zapped with a Taser electronic stun gun.

“I’m not certain until I do all the research which way the decision is going to go,” Sperrazza said from the bench.

But the prosecution is taking no chances.


It filed a request asking for another DNA sample from Smith, which defense attorney Patrick M. Balkin said was probably a fail-safe in case he wins his motion to throw out the sample taken after the Sept. 29 Taser incident at Niagara Falls Police Headquarters.

I can’t wait to find out what they come up with next time to persuade Smith to cooperate.  After all, we’re now going into the temperate season in Buffalo, and water will again readily flow.

2 comments on “Tortured In Buffalo

  1. Kathleen Casey

    Ryan Smith’s trouble in combination with your Love Science, Hate Science is a good case study of the problem of Simple Justice. So easy and yet so elusive. Good job!

    Oh and July is coming, you know.

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