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Taser moves to dismiss lawsuit over inmate's death

LAWRENCEVILLE - A motion filed Thursday by Taser International asks a judge to dismiss a lawsuit involving the death of a combative inmate and lays blame instead at the feet of Gwinnett County Sheriff's deputies.

The motion points out that the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner's Office found Frederick Jerome Williams died of cardiac arrest in May 2004 and an autopsy did not list Taser as a contributing factor.

The motion states that deputies who responded to Williams' home in Lawrenceville were dealing with a "highly agitated, delusional man, drenched in sweat, eyes bugging out, refusing to cooperate, screaming about the devil and the blood of Jesus."

After an initial struggle with police at the scene, Williams was handcuffed and placed in a patrol car, then driven to the Gwinnett County Detention Center. Williams continued to be combative with deputies at the jail and lost consciousness after being stunned multiple times with a Taser. He died the following day at Gwinnett Medical Center.

Williams' widow filed a lawsuit against the Gwinnett County, Taser International and the county's contracted medical provider at the jail, Prison Health Services, last year.

The motion to dismiss repeats but is careful not to agree with a portion of the Williams' lawsuit that blames jailers for the death. The initial claim says Williams' was "essentially tortured by jailers 'maliciously and sadistically' through the use of 'objectively unreasonable, violent force' and the deprivation of oxygen."

If that's true, Taser lawyers said that their company can't be at fault for a deputy's improper use of force.

Taser says the Williams family's argument that its company neglected to properly design, test and manufacture the product and then train officers on its use were not sustainable. The company stated deputies were aware that using the product in the "drive-stun" mode by applying it directly to Williams' body was to gain compliance through pain.

There is also no recognized legal duty requiring a weapons manufacturer to train purchasers in the use of its products, the motion states.

Attorneys for Taser argue the death was a result of "Williams' own bizarre behavior, the control holds applied by jail personnel attempting to restrain him and their alleged failure to promptly secure lifesaving medical care."