WATCH: Ohio Inmate Deaths Reveal “Torturous” Use of Tasers


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Corporal Matthew Stice pointed his Taser at Martini Smith’s bare chest.

Smith was 20 years old, pregnant and stripped nearly naked, standing in a cell in the Franklin County jail in Columbus, Ohio. She had been detained on charges of stabbing a boyfriend she’d accused of beating her. Stice and a deputy had ordered her to disrobe, take off all jewelry and don a prison gown. But she hadn’t been able to obey one command – remove the silver stud from her tongue.

“Take the tongue ring out,” Deputy Shawnda Arnold said. Smith continued struggling to unscrew the ring, inserting fingers from both hands into her mouth. No luck. Her fingers were numb, she protested: She had been cuffed for six hours with her hands behind her back.

“I will Tase you,” Stice said. The ring was slippery, Smith said, asking for a paper towel. The deputies refused. “I just want to go to sleep,” Smith cried.

Stice warned her again, then fired. The Taser’s electrified darts struck Smith’s chest; she collapsed against the concrete wall and slid to the floor, gasping, arms over her breasts.

“Why did you Tase me?” she moaned. “I wasn’t harming nobody. I can’t just take it out.”

Five days later, Smith had a miscarriage.

“It stays with me like it was yesterday,” Smith said of the Taser’s pain and the memory of her loss of the child. The charges against her in the domestic violence case were dismissed.

The 2009 incident is among hundreds documented by Reuters in which Tasers have been misused or linked to accusations of torture or corporal punishment in U.S. prisons and jails.

Reuters identified 104 deaths involving Tasers behind bars, nearly all since 2000 – 10 percent of a larger universe of more than 1,000 fatal law enforcement encounters in which the weapons were used. Some of the in-custody deaths were deemed “multi-factorial,” with no distinct cause, and some were attributed to pre-existing health problems. But the Taser was listed as a cause or contributing factor in more than a quarter of the 84 inmate deaths in which the news agency obtained autopsy findings.

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