of inhaling and exhaling to an extent, the hog-tie does not affect blood oxygen or carbon dioxide levels. In other words, the impairment is so minor that it does not lead to asphyxia, and in fact has no practical significance. Dr. Neuman explained the disparity between his findings and those of Dr. Reay by describing methodological flaws in Dr. Reay's experiments and logical flaws in Dr. Reay's reasoning.
The UCSD study, which Dr. Reay concedes rests on exemplary methodology, eviscerates Dr. Reay's conclusions. The UCSD study refutes Dr. Reay's underlying premise -- that blood oxygen levels decrease after exercise. Thus, the UCSD study refutes Dr. Reay's ultimate conclusion -- that the hog-tie restraint prevents the lungs from replenishing the blood's oxygen supply; according to the UCSD study, the blood needs no replenishment after exercise because it already has adequate oxygen.
The UCSD study also refutes Dr. Eisele's opinion that the hog-tie prevents the lungs from "blowing off" excess carbon dioxide. The UCSD study found no difference in carbon dioxide levels between subjects who had exercised and been hog-tied, and subjects who had exercised and not been hog-tied. Thus, as Dr. Neuman testified and Dr. Reay now concedes, the hog-tie restraint is "physiologically neutral." (Reay Excerpt of Trial Tr. at 47.)
After Dr. Reay's retraction, little evidence is left that suggests that the hog-tie restraint can cause asphyxia. All of the scientists who have sanctioned the concept of positional asphyxia have relied to some degree on Dr. Reay's work. The UCSD study has proven Dr. Reay's work to be faulty, which impugns the scientific articles that followed it. Like a house of cards, the evidence for positional asphyxia has fallen completely.
In light of the UCSD study, the hog-tie restraint in and of itself does not constitute excessive force -- when a violent individual has resisted less severe restraint techniques, applying a physiologically neutral restraint that will immobilize him is not excessive force. See Mayard v. Hopwood, 105 F.3d 1226, 1227-28 (8th Cir. 1997) (holding that placing a person wearing handcuffs and leg restraints in a prone position was reasonable as a matter of law where the person had violently resisted arrest).
ii. Whether Price's Girth Made The Hogtie Particularly Dangerous For Him
Plaintiffs press, however, that the hog-tie as applied to Price posed a grave danger. Plaintiffs note that even the UCSD study found that hog-tying impairs the mechanical process of breathing to a small extent. Plaintiffs argue that this impairment, combined with Price's girth, caused him to asphyxiate.
Plaintiffs have failed to prove this alleged fact. Plaintiffs have adduced no reliable evidence that suggests that Price's girth impaired his breathing. Dr. Reay opined that as Price lay prone, his belly may have applied pressure to his lungs, which could have impaired his breathing. However, Dr. Reay admitted that he has no empirical evidence that suggests that lying prone with a large belly can impair breathing to a significant extent. Thus, his testimony was wholly speculative.
Moreover, Dr. Neuman studied individuals of Price's general size, shape, morphology, and body mass index. Dr. Neuman's study included persons with a body mass index of thirty, which is greater than Price's body mass index at the time of the struggle.
Dr. Neuman testified that although his study has limited applicability to extremely obese individuals, Price was merely somewhat overweight. As Dr. Neuman testified, it is wild speculation to say that a person lying prone with a potbelly will asphyxiate to death while a slightly smaller person will have no physiological reaction whatsoever. Thus, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have not established that Price's girth made the hog-tie especially dangerous for him.
iii. Whether The Pressure The Deputies Applied To Price's Back Made The Hogtie Particularly Dangerous
Plaintiffs next argue that pressure on Price's back impaired his breathing. Plaintiffs argue that this pressure, combined with the breathing impairment caused by the hog-tie, led to Price's death.
Plaintiffs have failed to establish this alleged fact. Plaintiffs' witnesses produced wildly different accounts of the deputies' actions. Some witnesses claimed that the deputies "sat on" Price. Other witnesses did not recall seeing the deputies apply any pressure at all. Even those witnesses who testified that the deputies applied pressure provided different accounts about whether the deputies applied pressure before or after they applied the hog-tie restraint.
The Court doubts that a deputy sat on Price, for three reasons. First, sitting on a hog-tied person (whose hands and feet are necessarily above his torso) would be awkward indeed. Second, the deputies simply had no reason to sit on Price -- the hog-tie had immobilized him. It seems unlikely that a deputy would have sat in an awkward position for no reason. Third, Plaintiffs themselves have relentlessly claimed throughout this lawsuit that the deputies stood far away from Price after they hog-tied him.
The deputies admit, however, that they applied minor pressure to Price's back. As they handcuffed and hog-tied him, they necessarily had to control him from thrashing around, so a deputy placed a knee in Price's back and a hand on his shoulder. The Court finds that this action was reasonable. See Estate of Phillips v. City of Milwaukee, 123 F.3d 586, 593 (7th Cir. 1997) (holding on similar facts that "the officers' response was reasonable [inasmuch as the officers] placed just enough weight on [the arrestee] to keep him from rolling over and kicking"). A deputy testified that he may have maintained this pressure for a few seconds after he completed the hog-tie as he got up from the ground. The Court holds that this innocent, brief action was reasonable.
In addition, Deputy Tally testified that he knelt next to Price, placing most of his weight on his heels. However, he placed a knee in Price's back. Deputy Tally did this to calm Price (and thus keep him from smashing his face into the ground) and to convey a sense of control in a tense, confused situation. Notably, Deputy Tally did not apply significant pressure to Price. The Court finds that Deputy Tally's actions were reasonable. See id.
Plaintiffs have not established that the deputies applied any more than the above-described pressure. Even if the deputies applied more pressure, Plaintiffs have not shown that the pressure impaired Price's breathing to a significant degree. Plaintiffs have not offered any evidence that indicates the amount of the pressure, nor have they established what amount of pressure can impair breathing.
Thus, Plaintiffs have failed to establish that any pressure that Price may have experienced impaired his breathing or affected his blood gas levels. In short, plaintiffs have not proven that the hog-tie as applied posed any danger to Price, or that it led to his death. Accordingly, the Court concludes that the deputies used reasonable force when they placed Price face-down and hog-tied him, with incidental pressure applied to his torso. Insofar as the hog-tie and pressure are concerned, Plaintiffs' excessive force claim fails.
The obvious question remains, however: What did cause Price's death? The Court finds that, as several expert witnesses testified, he most likely died from a cardiac arrest that occurred during his encounter with the deputies.
Numerous factors indicate that methamphetamine-induced toxic delirium caused this cardiac arrest.
First, Price had methamphetamine in his system when Dr. Eisele conducted the autopsy, which means that he had recently used it.
Second, methamphetamine irritates the heart and makes it more prone to a cardiac arrest. (Eisele Excerpt of Trial Tr. at 25, 27.) Third, Price had "internal derangements" within his heart that chronic methamphetamine abuse could have caused. (Id.) Fourth, methamphetamine can cause the body to release catecholamines (adrenaline) which also can irritate the heart. Dr. Eisele found catecholamines in Price's body. Fifth, Price had been acting in a bizarre fashion, which indicates that he was suffering from a methamphetamine-induced psychosis. (Neuman Excerpt of Trial Tr. at 34-35.) Sixth, Price developed a high fever at the hospital, which methamphetamine-induced toxic delirium frequently causes. (Id. at 36.) Seventh, while in the hospital, Price developed rhabdomyloysis, which is a breakdown of muscle cells. This is also a symptom of methamphetamine-induced toxic delirium.
Dr. Neuman perfectly captured the cause of death when he made the following statement:
We have clear data that there is no respiratory component to the hog-tie position. We also have clear data that Price was a chronic methamphetamine abuser. He had essentially all of the signs and symptoms of methamphetamine use, and he died a death that was completely consistent with toxic delirium secondary to methamphetamine use. To suppose anything else placed a significant role in his death is speculation.