Friday, November 24, 2006

Guilty Of Having An Epileptic Seizure

[Posted by reader_iam]

We have to do better than this.
A seizure took over [Daniel] Beloungea's body while walking through his suburban Detroit neighborhood last April. When an onlooker in a neighbor's house saw Beloungea having the seizure, which includes rapid repetitive arm motion, she misinterpreted it as criminal conduct. Specifically, she thought Beloungea was masturbating in public.

With that misconception in mind, she called the Oakland Police Department. When police arrived on the scene, Beloungea was still undergoing his seizure, acting disoriented and not responding to questions.

When officers couldn't get through to Beloungea they drew their weapons, shocked him with a high-voltage taser, hit him with a baton and wrestled him to the ground. They then handcuffed him and put him in a police car.

Undersheriff Michael McCabe of the Oakland County Police Department said that the officers tasered Beloungea because he lunged at one of them. Beloungea and his lawyer say the more police got physical the more Beloungea got agitated and aggressive — typical behavior, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of America, for a person restrained while having a partial complex seizure. Beloungea's wild motions and inability to communicate were not defiance or resistance, but classic symptoms of epilepsy

The officers put Beloungea in jail, citing assault of a police officer and resisting arrest. Throughout the incident Beloungea, was wearing a medical alert bracelet identifying him as an epileptic, stating his name and the contact numbers of people who can be reached in case of an emergency.
[Emphasis added.]

OK, you can argue that mistakes can be made, especially given that Beloungea's seizures are not of the "thrash on the ground" type that people expect. (But what ABOUT that medical alert bracelet, huh?) And the officers likely did not receive adequate training.

But I'm inclined to give relatively little leeway here, because of the kicker to the story: Charges against Beloungea were pursued even after professionals confirmed that he had been having a seizure.
Beloungea was ultimately found not guilty by reason of insanity. Beloungea is not insane — he's simply epileptic. But his lawyer, Otis Underwood, told ABC News there was no other way to get Beloungea off the charges than the insanity defense. The catch: He had to spend 20 days locked in a criminal mental facility.

That is appalling; simply inexcusable. Was there no one in the prosecutor's office with the ability to step back and think?

There was an assault here, all right--but the victims were not the police, but rather Beloungea himself, and plain old common sense.