The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Marlene Tapia against a corrections officer for allegedly imposing cruel and unusual punishment, violating her due process right.
Raw Story reported that in the suit filed last week, Tapia was arrested for violating parole in connection with a previous drug case. While conducting a routine strip search, Blanca Zapater, a Bernalillo County, N.M., corrections officer and another officer “observed a plastic baggie protruding from Ms. Tapia’s vagina.”
Instead of asking her to take out the bag, Zapater allegedly “sprayed a chemical agent directly on Ms. Tapia’s genitals twice,” even though “Ms. Tapia was not using or attempting to use any force against the corrections officers.”
The suit alleges that the spraying “served no purpose other than to punish” and “would not cause the baggie to become dislodged.”
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Executive director of ACLU, Peter Simonson told KOB4 that the chemical agent was mace.
Tapia said she experienced “severe pain that lasted for several weeks including burning, swollen genitals and painful urination,” according to court records.
The ACLU is seeking punitive damages, determined by a jury, for the alleged violations of Tapia’s rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Metropolitan Detention Center staff did not want to comment on the case, but confirmed that the Zapater is still on staff after she was hired in November 2008, KOB4 reported.
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According to the lawsuit, Zapater was disciplined as a result of her actions.
Simonson said the ACLU never seeks reimbursement, so there will be no compensations and benefits. Instead, Simonson and his staff wants to make sure the U.S. Constitutional freedoms and protections apply to everybody, including the people accused of a crime.
“We do it so we can ensure that these sorts of things don’t happen to another person,” he said.
Read the ACLU’s full complaint below.