Patterico's Pontifications

5/1/2007

Scott v. Harris: The Video Makes All the Difference

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,Crime,General — Patterico @ 12:02 am

The amazing thing to me about yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling in Scott v. Harris is that it would have been a completely different case without the videotape — a videotape that I will show you in this post.

Consider the basic facts. A deputy attempts to pull over a speeding motorist, who takes police on a high-speed chase. In an attempt to stop the suspect, a deputy eventually bumps the suspect’s car, causing it to spin out of control. The suspect ends up a quadriplegic, and he sues the deputy, alleging excessive force.

The legal issue in the case is simple: was the officer’s action in bumping the suspect’s car reasonable? This question hinges on another: was the suspect’s driving dangerous enough to justify using the possibly deadly force of bumping his car?

Normally, this would be a question for a jury. And that’s what the lower courts concluded in this case. The deputy filed for summary judgment and asserted that he was immune from suit. The District Court decided that the resolution of the immunity question depended on disputed issues of material fact, and ruled that the case could go to a jury. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

With no videotape, the Supreme Court almost certainly would have either declined to hear the case, or would simply have affirmed.

This means that the case would probably have gone to a jury — and God only knows what a jury would do in a case like this. With no videotape to justify the deputies’ actions, and a quadriplegic sitting in front of them, the sky could be the limit.

But luckily for the deputy, there is a videotape — and that fact changed everything. With it, the deputy’s lawyers (one of whom was Orin Kerr) were able to convince the Supreme Court that the deputy’s actions were reasonable as a matter of law, meaning that he was entitled to summary judgment. Bottom line: he wins — because of the video.

I don’t think this case can be properly discussed without looking at the video. So I’m going to show it to you.

The video, taken from the Supreme Court web site, splices together video from two separate cars. I have split the video into two files — one from each car — and uploaded them to YouTube. (I am not aware of anyone else who has done this, by the way. It took some work.) This allows you to watch the video as you read the commentary, which is critical to understanding the case.

Here is the view from the first car:

You can see that the video begins as a high-speed nighttime chase. The suspect’s car is being chased along a narrow two-lane road, and pulls into the lane of oncoming traffic at numerous points. To delineate where the action happens, I am going to use the counter just above the “SLP” on the right side of the screen. You see the suspect’s car swerve into the opposite lane of traffic at 2:01; 2:17 (around a blind curve); 2:44; 3:34; 3:39; and 3:45.

The suspect’s car pulls into a shopping center parking lot around 4:11. At 4:32, it appears to be surrounded, but escapes by clipping a patrol vehicle.

At 5:11, you can hear a deputy asking for permission to “spin him.” At 5:23 the suspect’s car crosses into the oncoming traffic lane again, as permission is given to “go ahead. Take him out. Take him out.”

At 6:17, you can barely see the patrol car running into the suspect car, and the suspect car goes off the road.

At 6:53 you see someone running up yelling: “We need an ambulance!”

At 7:55 a deputy says: “I saw him come by me at 73 miles an hour.”

At 8:35, a figure collapses, and the clip ends shortly thereafter.

Here is the view from the second car:

This car is driven by Deputy Scott, the deputy who ultimately bumped the suspect’s car, sending it off the road. Deputy Scott starts out the chase way behind the other police cars, and spends some time trying to catch up to the other vehicles in the pursuit. When the suspect’s car goes into the shopping center parking lot, Deputy Scott drives around to the other side, to cut him off. At 12:40, the suspect’s car comes right at Deputy Scott’s patrol car, and clips it two seconds later, at 12:42.

At 13:06, Deputy Scott, whose car was clipped in the parking lot, says: “Let me have him, 78, my car’s already tore up.”

At 13:34, Deputy Scott is given permission to “Take him out. Take him out.” He is now the lead vehicle in the pursuit. And at 14:24, Deputy Scott bumps the suspect, knocking him off the road.

Having had the chance to see it all unfold on the video(s), Justice Scalia describes the pursuit in this way:

In March 2001, a Georgia county deputy clocked respondent’s vehicle traveling at 73 miles per hour on a road with a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. The deputy activated his blue flashing lights indicating that respondent should pull over. Instead, respondent sped away, initiating a chase down what is in most portions a two-lane road, at speeds exceeding 85 miles per hour. The deputy radioed his dispatch to report that he was pursuing a fleeing vehicle, and broadcast its license plate number. Petititoner, Deputy Timothy Scott, heard the radio communication and joined the pursuit along with other officers. In the midst of the chase, respondent pulled into the parking lot of a shopping center and was nearly boxed in by the various police vehicles. Respondent evaded the trap by making a sharp turn, colliding with Scott’s police car, exiting the parking lot, and speeding off once again down a two-lane highway.

Following respondent’s shopping center maneuvering, which resulted in slight damage to Scott’s police car, Scott took over as the lead pursuit vehicle. Six minutes and nearly 10 miles after the chase had begun, Scott decided to attempt to terminate the episode by employing a “Precision Intervention Technique (‘PIT’) maneuver, which causes the fleeing vehicle to spin to a stop.” Brief for Petititoner 4. Having radioed his supervisor for permission, Scott was told to “‘[g]o ahead and take him out.'” Harris v. Coweta County, 433 F. 3d 807, 811 (CA11 2005). Instead, Scott applied his push bumper to the rear of respondent’s vehicle. As a result, respondent lost control of his vehicle, which left the roadway, ran down an embankment, overturned, and crashed. Respondent was badly injured and was rendered a quadriplegic.

This was a wildly different description from that given by the Court of Appeals, which had written that the suspect had maintained control of his car, slowed down for intersections, used his signal to indicate turns, and generally posed no serious danger to anyone out on the road. As Justice Scalia wrote: “Indeed, reading the lower court’s opinion, one gets the impression that [the suspect], rather than fleeing from police, was attempting to pass his driving test . . .” Justice Scalia ridiculed the lower court’s interpretation:

Far from being the cautious and controlled driver the lower court depicts, what we see on the video more closely resembles a Hollywood-style car chase of the most frightening sort, placing police officers and innocent bystanders alike at great risk of injury.

Everyone on the Supreme Court except for Justice Stevens agreed.

There is no question that the video is the only reason that eight members of the Court second-guessed the decisions of the courts below, and prevented this case from going to a jury.

Which raises an obvious question: how many police officers have suffered huge jury verdicts because there was no video to show that their actions were justified? It’s impossible to say. But this case is evidence that a video can make all the difference.

97 Responses to “Scott v. Harris: The Video Makes All the Difference”

  1. how many police officers have suffered huge jury verdicts because there was no video to show that their actions were justified?

    How many civilians have suffered prison terms/fines because there was no video to show their actions were legal?

    Just think of all the time and money saved. A professional police offer would have nothing to fear from his/her actions being video taped. A crooked cop would soon have to find another line of work.

    There is no reason in the world that every patrol car in America shouldn’t have a camera in it.

    Gerald A (df24d9)

  2. If you initiate a chase, the cops get to stop you the best way they see fit… simple as that.

    Anyway, the thing I took away from this case is that Stevens has no business being on the Court. I love this quote from his dissent: “particularly when less dramatic measures … could have avoided such a tragic result.” That sure is easy to say from that big comfy chair, isn’t it? I didn’t know he was qualified to establish police tactics, but if so, I encourage him to change careers.

    Justin (747191)

  3. Kid was a damn fool, and he paid for it. He’s got nobody to blame but himself. His lawyer also needs to pay. Disbarment, and fines for needlessly tying up the courts.

    But, really, the biggest corrective would be to prosecute overprotective parents for child abuse. Kid don’t learn there are consequences for being a damn fool, he’ll get himself or somebody else hurt or killed. And sometimes the kid will get himself killed. You can’t save everybody, ’bout time we accepted that fact.

    Alan Kellogg (64c3a4)

  4. “There is no reason in the world that every patrol car in America shouldn’t have a camera in it.”

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    I’m not so sure that the lower courts were all that wrong in refusing to grant summary judgment in this case, though. It’s … well … so summary. A judge I admired very much once said, in the context of settlement discussions but it also applies to summary judgment: “Gentlemen, I’m here to try cases.”

    nk (db0112)

  5. I’m confused. Why shouldn’t the jury decide the question of whether the police officer’s actions were reasonable?

    If I have it right, there are two questions: what did the officers do and whether those actions were reasonable. While the videotape provides evidence to the first question, is it also not for the jury to decide whether the police officer’s actions were reasonable given the circumstances?

    Coming at this from another direction, if a judge can watch a videotape and rule whether what is shown on the tape is reasonable, then why did the Rodney King case need to go to a jury? Other than the need to appease the community with a conviction, of course?

    steve sturm (40e5a6)

  6. A smaller/shorter video file of the case can be found at:

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/LAW/04/30/scotus.chase/index.html

    jim (a9ab88)

  7. What bothers me the most is: what was the Court of Appeals smoking? Are we to assume that Federal judges will casually fill their decisions with blatant lies to support their conclusions?

    great unknown (fc7c50)

  8. Now, I am not a lawyer, Patterico, but I don’t think it is necessary to frame your conclusion a a deduction. It is stated by the Court in plain English at the bottom of the first page of the decision text itself:

    “(c) Viewing the facts in the light depicted by the videotape, it is clear that Deputy Scott did not violate the Fourth Amendment.”

    jim (6482d8)

  9. Stevens’ disent cracks me up. He suggest that police just run the registration and go to his house as if this kid is going to go home and do his homework. What if the car is stolen? What if there is a dead body in the trunk?

    Alta Bob (2bfa0c)

  10. Saying “a jury should consider this evidence” is not the same thing as saying “the police were wrong.”

    There’s all kinds of “judicial restraint” talk among the conservative wing of the court. One type of judical restraint is to recognize that other perspectives and interpretations of evidence may exist, and let a jury decide truly factual questions. That’s what the lower courts and Stevens did in this case — exercise judicial restraint.

    A jury would have almost certainly come to the same conclusion as the Supreme Court of the U.S. — the real disagreement was just about who’s decision it really was to make.

    In this case, the Supremes pulled a Bill O’Reilly — they said “how we see things is the ONLY RATIONAL way to see them.” That statement was necessary to decide the case the way they did.

    That said, there’s no question that videotapes are great to have for everyone — police and plaintiffs alike. Especially in excessive force cases.

    Phil (427875)

  11. Scott was told to “‘[g]o ahead and take him out.’” Instead, Scott applied his push bumper to the rear of respondent’s vehicle.

    Did Deputy Scott do something other than what he had been authorized to do, i.e. was his bump different from the PIT? I take it it was, and assume (tentatively) that was the “material issue of fact” bearing on the immunity issue. But it’s not clear.

    IF that was indeed the issue, and there was a possibility that Scott went outside of his authority, then it was appropriate to go to a jury.

    That would still leave the question of what the court of appeals was smoking.

    And the overall point is that in the choice between jeopardizing individual rights, bankrupting institutions and municipalities, and videotaping everything, videotaping wins 98% of the time.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  12. Pat’s right; the video makes all the difference. And I agree with the commenter that there’s no reason why every police car shouldn’t have a dash-mounted camera, too.

    The ultimate goal for the cops ought to be preservation of the record, to protect the rights of the officers, as well as the defendants.

    Incidents like this highlight the pigheaded stupidity of the Feebs — aka the F.B.I. — and the organization’s refusal to tape record interviews, opening the agents to accusations of lying about what was actually said by suspects and witnesses.

    If the police are acting in good faith, they have nothing to fear from their actions being recorded.

    As to this particular case, I don’t get the objections to the Supreme Court’s decision, that it usurped the role of the jury. In a summary judgement motion, the courts act as gatekeepers, throwing out garbage cases that ought not make it to a jury, using the standard that no reasonable factfinders could hold for the plaintiff.

    In order to rule on the motion, the Courts have act as factfinders, or at least put themselves in the place of factfinders.

    That the Supreme Court was able to find an 8-vote majority does add weight and legitimacy to the decision.

    And it also provides further proof that some judges are so removed from a reality-based — or, in the instance of the lower court, truth-based — existance, that their continued service only undermines what little confidence much of the public has in the fairness and impartiality of the judiciary.

    Stevens’ dissent is an embarassment.

    Mike Lief (69e871)

  13. Frankly, I’d like to see the prosecutors go back and add perjury charges against Mr. Harris for lying so blatantly in his affidavits or depositions in support of the motion for summary judgment.

    Also, as I note in comments here, the court of appeals made a very contradictory finding. It absolved the supervisor of liability because he only authorized a “non-deadly,” “safe” form of intervention, the PIT (in which Scott was not formally trained), and thus did not intend to authorize deadly force. However, the same opinion, in its earlier efforts to establish that this was “deadly force,” used the SAME supervisor’s testimony to establish that that supervisor knew he was authorizing deadly force. It’s a sign of a court hell-bent on holding the police officer accountable, regardless of the facts.

    Patterico, thanks for the hard work of converting the video. I couldn’t watch the court’s video, because I simply will not put RealPlayer on my computer.

    PatHMV (7f2300)

  14. The problem with your effort to find hypocrisy where it does not exist, Phil, is that the proper role of judges is to APPLY THE LAW as it actually exists. And under existing law, decisions of qualified immunity are required to be made by the court, not a jury, because qualified immunity ultimately turns on a question of law, whether the officer violated a “clearly established constitutional right.” Sometimes the answer to that question may depend on a factual determination. Qualified immunity is a threshold question, and must generally be determined before the trial, because part of the reason for the right is to protect the officer with such immunity from having to go through a trial.

    Because the decision is to be made by the court, it is the court which must decide on “reasonableness” of the stop under existing law. That is not, under the law, a question for the jury to determine. The only role the jury would have is to determine the actual facts which occurred, not whether the conduct described by those facts was reasonable or unreasonable. Since, as the Supreme Court pointed out, there was no genuine dispute as to a material fact (as opposed to legal conclusions to be drawn from those facts), this decision was required to be made, under the law. There’s no “activism” here.

    PatHMV (7f2300)

  15. biwah –

    Did you not see the footnote 1 superscript in the text you cited? It has the Court taking the opposite position than the one you stated.

    In any case, here it is:

    “1 Scott says he decided not to employ the PIT maneuver because he was “concerned that the vehicles were moving too quickly to safelyexecute the maneuver.” Brief for Petitioner 4. Respondent agrees that the PIT maneuver could not have been safely employed. See Brief for Respondent 9. It is irrelevant to our analysis whether Scott had permission to take the precise actions he took.”

    jim (6482d8)

  16. The Supremes get one right…

    Patterico has posted the video — with commentary — that convinced the U.S. Supreme Court that a suspect injured during a high-speed police chase has no right to sue the cops who forcibly ended the pursuit. The decision is 8-1……

    Out on a limb at Mike Lief.com (0d19bc)

  17. PatHMV,

    Thanks for recognizing that it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was harder than you probably realize. YouTube has a 10-minute limit, so I couldn’t just save it and upload it directly. I had to chop it in half. That meant converting the format, which meant finding and downloading a program to do that. So I: downloaded the video from the Court web site; found and downloaded conversion software; converted the file to .avi format; edited it to chop it in half; saved the edited versions to my computer; uploaded them onto YouTube; and embedded them in my post.

    The process took hours. I was up very late.

    Patterico (a4c12c)

  18. jim – i did not go to the opinion and was just speculating, hoping someone would have done the work for me (thanks).

    I will have to read it when I get a minute though. I am perplexed by how the scope of the permission given to Scott could be irrelevant, if the central issue is immunity. I mean, seriously…

    Also I agree with Phil’s comment that SCOTUS took remarkable position on the facts here, saying there was no issue of material fact, period. However, if anything makes those kinds of higher court decisions possible, it is videotape from multiple perspectives.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  19. Well, Stevens is from Illinois, like me, and may have practiced under a stricter summary judgment jurisprudence. Essentially, the weight to be given to a piece of evidence, and that is all the video is, is strictly the province of the trier of fact. Which is not to say that judges cannot grant directed verdicts or judgments N.O.V. or reverse verdicts for being against the manifest weight of the evidence but they like a fuller record and a better opportunity for the parties to make their case. I have done dozens of motions for summary judgment and basically the standard I had to meet was total incontrovertibility as to every material fact.

    nk (db0112)

  20. Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 05/01/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

    David M (339fe8)

  21. patHMV, your discussion of qualified immunity prompted me to read the opinion, and skim steven’s dissent. I think what you’re referring to is the paragraph referring to footnote 8 of the majority opinion, where Scalia notes that the inqiry is whether Scott’s actions were “objectively reasonable.” He says this is because the evidence can only be interpreted one way — by a “reasonable jury.”

    I stand by my statement that this is judical activism. If you can’t even convince your own fellow justices of your position, you are an activist judge to nevertheless declare your position “objectively reasonable.”

    My reading of the opinion is that the majority thinks that any reasonable person watching the videotape would conclude that “the car chase that respondent intiated in this case posed a substantial and immediate risk of physical injury to others; no reasonable jury could determine other wise.” After all, that’s what the holding of the case is. And yet a fellow supreme court justice views the tape as showing something different!

    This to me sounds like the Bill O’Reilly school of jurisprudence — “everyone who disagrees with us is unreasonable.” What do “reasonable” and “unreasonable” mean anymore at that point?

    The majority is saying, basically, that it is taking this case out of the hands of jurors like Stevens, because they do not constitute what the Court deems a “reasonable jury.”

    Phil (427875)

  22. His lawyer also needs to pay. Disbarment, and fines for needlessly tying up the courts.

    Oh, I don’t think so. That’s a defense lawyer’s job: to make sure that the cops and the prosecutors do their jobs.

    Fritz (3c5a22)

  23. Interesting point of view, Phil… if you can only bring along 8 Supreme Court Justices, you should lose, so long as the author of the majority opinion fails to bring along one single, solitary member of the Court.

    Mind you, as a general rule, consistently applied, I might share your concern about the mutability of “reasonableness” standards. I might prefer that a jury decide whether a criminal suspect had a “reasonable” expectation of privacy in the phone conversation the police listened in on. Or whether it is “reasonable” to find a right to abortion in the language of the Constitution and its various amendments. Hmmm…..

    PatHMV (7f2300)

  24. One minor nit, Patterico, in the audio, the officer doesn’t ask for permission to “spin him”, he asks permission to “PIT him”.

    I once talked with someone who took the course on how to PIT. Supposedly, PITing is a lot safer than what the police officer did. When you PIT a car, you basically hit it from the side right at the rear wheel. It causes the car to start spinning in place so friction from the tires causes it to immediately slow down while continuing to slide in the same direction that it was going. If the road is straight, that means it tends to stay on or near the road. By contrast, when you hit someone’s rear bumper and they lose control then they tend to leave the road in some random direction at whatever speed they were originally going.

    However, in the officer’s defense, it looks to me like he was planning to PIT the guy, but the guy slowed down and the officer bumped him by accident while he was getting ready to pull out into oncoming traffic to try a PIT. It’s a tough maneuver on a two-lane road. You have to be driving close behind the target while watching for oncoming traffic like you are getting ready to pass. There isn’t much room for error and no room at all for the target to slow down while your eyes on the other lane.

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  25. great unknown (#7): The district court didn’t assert that Harris’s account of what happened was true. It simply applied the standard that a motion for summary judgment should be granted if even accepting the nonmoving party’s facts, the moving party prevails as a matter of law.

    This ruling essentially holds that if the nonmoving party’s facts are unreasonable (or, more properly, if a reasonable trier of fact could not accept the nonmoving party’s account), they need not be accepted in a motion for summary judgment. As a matter of law, police officers are entitled to immunity from suit for actions performed in the course of their duties as long as those actions are not unreasonable. The Court held that no reasonable jury could have concluded that the officer acted unreasonably.

    I’m not entirely comfortable with this decision. I believe that the officer’s actions certainly were not unreasonable, and were I on the jury I wouldn’t hesitate to so find. But it seems like that properly is a question for a jury, for a trier of fact. I don’t think that no reasonable person could conclude that the officer used excessive force; I might disagree with such a judgment but I don’t think it would cause me to question somebody’s rationality. In this case, I wholeheartedly agree with the outcome, but there might be other cases where I disagree with a judge ‘s arbitrary ruling that a position is “unreasonable.”

    But on the other hand, if this standard is not apply, isn’t qualified immunity rendered meaningless? Immunity is supposed to shield qualified persons from having to defend themselves at trial; if the barest assertion of unreasonableness suffices to proceed to trial, immunity ceases to be immunity and becomes instead an affirmative defense.

    I’m undecided. I’m not entirely happy with this ruling, but I can’t say it was wrong, either.

    Voice of Reason (4ffc3d)

  26. The issue troubling Voice of Reason is the idea that the jury is responsible for determining the reasonableness of the force used. It’s not. The jury’s role would be to decide the facts. The qualified immunity decision is not one for the jury, but for the judge, under existing law. If there are disputed facts which might bear on that determination, then the jury is to decide those facts, but the legal question of qualified immunity is for the judge.

    So, for instance, if there had been no videotape, it would be up to the jury to decide whether, in fact, Harris hit Scott’s car on the way out of the parking lot or not, whether, in fact, Harris was making turn signals or not, whether, in fact, Harris was swerving into oncoming traffic or not, and other relevant facts. But here, the court found that there was no genuine dispute as to any of those material facts. Because the FACTS were not in dispute, it was the role of the court to determine whether or not those facts made the stop reasonable under the applicable constitutional precedents of the Supreme Court.

    PatHMV (7f2300)

  27. The more the majority argued that this was a life-threatening chase that had to be stopped, the more I wonder, why was it so critical to catch a fleeing speeder when the officers knew it was dangerous?

    There’s the obvious possibilty that someone who won’t stop for a speeding ticket probably has other stuff to hide — the car may be stolen, they may have drugs aboard, or they may be a fugitive on another charge.

    But there are other explanations for a driver who decides to flee — the driver may be mentally unstable, might be an irrational kid driving without permission, etc. They might be paraniod, and have panicked for a moment, and then decided it was too late to do anything but keep fleeing. If that’s what it turns out to be, was the chase still worth it? Even if the driver or a bystander is killed?

    Even if the driver is driving a stolen car, do we really make things better by putting everybody in the road in danger just to chase him down and smash the car that was already stolen? If the driver has drugs in the car, same thing; is it really such an emergency that we catch him right now, rather than track his licence plate and do further investigation?

    Does the act of fleeing alone justify initiating a chase that threatens many lives, once you’ve already got the license plate number? Wouldn’t be better to hang back, run the plates on the car, call in a chopper, etc?

    Scalia points to another justification — he says that if the criminals think that the police won’t pursue them if they drive away really fast, they’ll be more likely to flee.

    Of course this is basically true, just as if we authorized the police to shoot and kill anyone who attempts to flee, we’d have fewer people fleeing. But do we want to subject society as a whole to such tactics as a matter of law just because we’d catch a few more criminals a bit quicker?

    Once again, the more the people talk about how dangerous this chase was, and how quickly it had to be stopped, the more I wonder why the chase was going on in the first place. I prefer to have a jury evaluate the facts of these cases where there is a dispute, rather than declaring that anytime a driver flees, chasing him and forcing a wreck is reasonable as a matter of law.

    Phil (427875)

  28. I don’t fault those commenters having trouble with this point; after all, Justice Stevens made the same mistake. The majority addressed the issue here, at footnote 8:

    8 JUSTICE STEVENS incorrectly declares this to be “a question of fact best reserved for a jury,” and complains we are “usurp[ing] the jury’s factfinding function.” Post, at 7. At the summary judgment stage,however, once we have determined the relevant set of facts and drawn all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party to the extent supportable by the record, see Part III–A, supra, the reasonableness of Scott’s actions—or, in JUSTICE STEVENS’ parlance, “[w]hether [respondent’s] actions have risen to a level warranting deadly force,” post, at 7—is a pure question of law. (emphasis added)

    PatHMV (7f2300)

  29. Yes, Phil, all that is worth chasing fleeing suspects. Because the contrary rule, that officers must cease pursuit immediately upon recognizing that the offender won’t pull over voluntarily, would result in the criminals ruling the streets. Suppose the car is stolen, though the police don’t actually know that. If the rule you propose were adopted, then the thief will ALWAYS keep driving, and drive more erratically more quickly, knowing that the police will be required to let him go once he starts endangering lives.

    You say call in a chopper… what if the crook sees the spotlight or hears the chopper, and continues to drive erratically because of that? Must the chopper, too, back off? How far must the police back off before you will hold the driver’s dangerous driving against him and not the police? What if the police are 100 feet back? 1,000? Must they all get out of visible range of the police? Maybe you think they should radio ahead and get all police cars out of sight, lest the driver spot some police car along the side of the road, pursuing some other mission, and freak out again.

    The criminals do not own our streets, we do. And that means stopping any motorist who won’t pull over when ordered to do so by the police.

    PatHMV (7f2300)

  30. It’s easy to fault the officer for not properly executing a PIT, but that Caddy was very fast, and the cop was obviously having trouble catching up. In Grandt Theft Auto, San Andreas, one of the driving school missions is to do a PIT, and it’s pretty obvious that it would be really hard to do in real life with only the front bumper.

    The commenter above is wrong to claim that the failure to do the PIT perfectly is an issue of material fact. What at issue is if an officer protecting others from a deadly situation has immunity as a matter of law. Similarly, a person who gives CPR poorly on a stranger has immunity under most Good Samaritan laws.

    If there is no issue of fact in dispute(no way a jury couldn’t find) that this criminal was risking a bunch of lives, the cop is immune from liability for his efforts, however imperfect.

    This should be simple and basic stuff. Cops cannot do their job perfectly because it’s a really hard job. They can’t be forced to pay victims of their genuine mistakes. Negligence or using deadly force when there is no risk to innocent people is a totally different matter.

    Dustin (c89c23)

  31. PatHMV (26): if it is up to the judge to make the call, why wasn’t this the case with Rodney King? As with this case, there was a videotape, which should have eliminated the need for the jury to decide on the facts of what happened. Why didn’t the judge decide whether the actions he saw on the tape were reasonable?

    steve sturm (40e5a6)

  32. PatHMV, there are juristictions which have or have had “no hot pursuit” policies in place, and it’s instructive to look.

    One I am familiar with is that the Portland (OR) police department will not pursue a motorcycle with a car (they will with another bike) for a purely traffic offence. If the bike doesn’t pull over when the lights go on and takes off, they leave them go. There are two justifications for this policy. First, If the bike is doing 100, and the pursuing car is doing 100, loss of control of the car is much more likely to endanger bystanders (mainly other vehicles) than the bike, and second, very few of the pursuits were successful – most bikes can quickly outrun a patrol car and can then hide easily. These factors are not present for car to car and bike to bike chases, which is why they are still done.
    I haven’t seen any stats, but the grapevine says that this has probably resulted in less than 10 potential arrests per year.

    That said, I agree that hot pursuit, when feasible, is required to keep everybody honest.

    bud (46e4bf)

  33. PatHMV: The criminals do not own our streets, we do. And that means stopping any motorist who won’t pull over when ordered to do so by the police.

    What if the pursuing officer in this case had simply shot the fleeing driver to stop him? Would he still have been reasonable?

    Either way you answer the above question, it’s your personal opinion. Your answer is not the “objectively reasonable” answer, because there is no “objectively reasonable” answer. It’s a question about which people may disagree. So is whether pushing the driver off of the road was reasonable.

    Dustin: “What at issue is if an officer protecting others from a deadly situation has immunity as a matter of law.”

    That wasn’t the real issue; nobody disagrees about that issue. I think Scalia (and PatHMV) claim that was the real issue, but it wasn’t. Scalia claims that’s the real issue by dismissing any disagreement about whether this was in fact a “deadly situation” and whether forcing the crash was in fact “protecting” anyone.

    Those were the questions Stevens said were not unresolved. Stevens said this wasn’t necessarily a “deadly situation.” He said this wasn’t nescessarily about “protecting” anyone. That was for a jury to decide, he said, and then, if the jury found that was the case, the officers would be cleared.

    Scalia and the marjority pretended there was no dispute about the dangerousness of the situation, and the necessity of pushing the driver off the road. They ignored a supreme court justice who said otherwise — that to me, calls their decision into serious question.

    Phil (427875)

  34. Steve, why in the world do you think that the Rodney King case is at all relevant? In fact, it’s not, but let me address a couple of differences anyway. First, in the Rodney King case, the video didn’t show all the relevant conduct, unlike here, where the video caught the entirety of Harris’ reckless conduct. The King video did not capture the first few minutes of the attack, and so did not resolve the issue of what King was doing which might have justified the reaction of the police officers. At crucial points, as I recall, King’s hands and arms were obscured, so the videotape did not itself directly contradict the officers’ testimony that King was reaching for a weapon or otherwise resisting arrest. As Wikipedia notes, the video aired by the TV news cut a crucial 13 seconds out of the video, which showed King appearing to get up off the ground and charge at the officers.

    Beyond that, I would note the obvious difference in that the King court case was a criminal trial, not a civil one, which of course has very different rules and no such thing as summary judgment (and the later federal criminal trial ended in conviction of two of the officers). In the civil trial, King was awarded $3.8 million. If you still think somehow the King case has any relevance to this case, you’re welcome to go dig up the records of that civil trial and see if any of it was resolved via summary judgment.

    PatHMV (7f2300)

  35. Phil,

    The standard for review isn’t “every person would agree” that this conduct was dangerous and police action should be authorized to stop it. The standard is whether “reasonable people would agree.”

    Eight of nine Justices agreed that a reasonable person would view the suspect’s driving as dangerous. The fact that Stevens disagrees won’t defeat a summary judgment motion, but it does suggest that the other Justices believe that Stevens’ perception of the danger presented is not reasonable.

    DRJ (40716e)

  36. Phil, in saying that there is no “objectively reasonable” answer, you are denying hundreds of Supreme Court precedents. As I said before, I may agree with you as a general principle that every single time the Court interjects a “reasonable man” standard, they are injecting their subjective views. However, that the Court has adopted “objectively reasonable” as a standard in scores and scores of cases, so you need to acknowledge that you are criticizing a general practice of the court (and frankly one mostly followed by the more liberal justices), not just this particular application of it.

    And I’m not sure where this “if one justice disagrees, the court is wrong” standard you seem to be promoting comes from. Do you really want me to go pull out dozens of cases in which a slim 5-4 majority of the liberal justices plus Kennedy imposed liability on some poor police officer or other public employee doing his job, or let some criminal go free because of some technical error? For instance, in last week’s case of Abdul-Kamir v. Quartermain, 5 justices decided that a constitutional provision was “clearly established,” while 4 justices felt that the same point was NOT “clearly established,” based on a confusing mish-mash of prior majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions. Did you criticize that case? I mean, if not just 1 but 4 justices of the Supreme Court felt that the law was not “clearly established” than how could the majority say that it was? Or do you perhaps wish to apply a different standard depending on your level of sympathy for a given litigant?

    PatHMV (7f2300)

  37. Bud, I agree. I hadn’t addressed the issue of police department and municipal policies on hot pursuit simply to avoid further complicating the discussion. I’ve got no objection to states and communities deciding the safest manner of handling such chases. After all, they involve a complex interaction of variables, including the general attitude towards law and order within the community. It’s appropriate for the police and political bodies to weigh those factors and craft policies to address them ahead of time.

    But no-pursuit policies are not required by the Constitution of the United States of America.

    PatHMV (7f2300)

  38. I can’t think of any high-speed pursuit that does not endanger the lives of innocent bystanders. Should the discretion to perform the PIT technique extend to a deputy not trained in it?

    “Although not yet trained in the Precision Intervention Technique, Deputy Scott radioed in a request to a supervisor to perform the maneuver. The request was granted. [emphasis mine]

    http://www.policeone.com/writers/columnists/TravisYates/articles/1241534/

    steve (2fda4b)

  39. # This case is not about the PIT Maneuver. While Deputy Scott asked permission to utilize PIT, he determined that he was going too fast to use the technique, and did ram the vehicle instead. A precision maneuver such as PIT is not the same as ramming a vehicle.

    And,

    The Court clearly places the blame on the suspect and rejects the idea that if the police had cancelled the pursuit, the public would be safer, citing: “. . .we are loath to lay down a rule requiring the police to allow fleeing suspects to get away whenever they drive so recklessly that they put other people’s lives in danger. It is obvious the perverse incentives such a rule would create.” The Court went on to say that the incentive would be “escape.”

    Fritz (3c5a22)

  40. Of course this is basically true, just as if we authorized the police to shoot and kill anyone who attempts to flee, we’d have fewer people fleeing

    True enough, but there’s already a Supreme Court ruling on that…

    Case came from either KY or OH, I believe…

    Scott Jacobs (feb2f7)

  41. Does “experience” establish that when police stop pursuing, bad guys slow down?

    Are there laws in some states allowing the officer to be sued if the pursuit were discontinued and the suspect crashes further down the road and hurts someone?

    Are agencies liable if they authorize use of force without training in the procedure, such as happened here?

    Was SCOTUS not bound by the factual findings of the lower court and thus precluded from using their own view of the tape on the issue of Mr. Harris’ dangerousness to other motorists?

    steve (2fda4b)

  42. Steve, the court opinion itself, as well as Patterico’s post and most of the comments answer your last question for you. It might be helpful to read them.

    PatHMV (7f2300)

  43. Scott #40:

    Tennessee v. Garner. You can view this case as modifying or explaining Garner.

    nk (db0112)

  44. I’m not a lawyer, nor am I a police officer. I’m just an average Joe citizen, so take what I say with however many grains of salt are deserved…

    This kid did this to himself. He knew that he was being oredered to pull over by an officer of the law. He decided instead to run from the law and put himself, the officers, and the public at risk with his actions. I have no sympathy for him. I’m just glad he didn’t get anyone but himself hurt during his foolish run from justice.

    Jim C

    Jim C (4321d4)

  45. I was close…

    I fail to see why shooting a guy in the leg is wrong.

    He stops, doesn’t he?

    Scott Jacobs (feb2f7)

  46. PatHMV said, The standard for review isn’t “every person would agree” that this conduct was dangerous and police action should be authorized to stop it. The standard is whether “reasonable people would agree.

    My point all along has been that this decision is activist on the part of the court, not that it was dead wrong, or that the court didn’t have the power to do it. We agree on that, apparently.

    A judge taking a non-activist tack would honestly look at the evidence and consider whether reasonable people could disagree over it — with a definition of “reasonable” that includes people who disagree with that judge. In other words, Stevens would consider Scalia’s opinion, and vice versa.

    And yes, I also consider the recent reversals of death penalty cases out of Texas somewhat “activist” as well. In one of those cases Scalia strongly dissented, angry that the majority was wrong for judging a court decision to be “objectively unreasonable” because there was evidence for reasonable people to find either way. Those darn activists!

    That said, I’m of a more cynical bent; realistically, I believe that every member of the court vascilates between “activist” and “non-activist” to varying degrees, depending on the desired result.

    Phil (427875)

  47. Outside of the immediate ambit of this case, I detect that Scalia is aiming at imposing Daubert on pleadings. Courts will now have to decide whether pleading is so obviously in contradiction to evidence that it becomes inadmissable.

    Personally, I think it’s about time.

    great unknown (fc7c50)

  48. But the point you keep missing, Phil, is that the jury is NOT the judge of the “reasonableness” of the actions. The jury is only the FACT finder. As you make clear, “reasonableness” is not really a fact, but a legal conclusion. In some cases, the law provides that it is indeed for the jury to make the determination of reasonableness (such as in many tort cases). But that’s not what the law of qualified immunity provides for. In those cases, a jury is to determine, if necessary, the FACTS. It is then the proper province of the court to draw legal conclusions from those facts.

    Here, the FACTS are not subject to dispute; every moment of the chase was caught on videotape. Thus, there were no FACTS in genuine dispute. The only dispute was as to the legal conclusion of constitutional reasonableness to be drawn from those facts.

    PatHMV (0e077d)

  49. Hey PatHMV:

    How fast was the driver going?

    How many red lights did he blow past?

    How many people were put in danger by his driving?

    Are these questions relevant to the finding of the Court?

    Does the video tape answer these questions?

    Bob Smith (469c2b)

  50. I’m with Jim C (#44) on this. Just a taxpayer, not affilitated with any governmental entity, and this kid has only himself to blame.

    And, whenever any City Council, State Legislature, or other body with fiduciary responsiblities for law enforcement has the gall to say that they can’t afford to equip their cars with video, they need to be shown these videos, have the SCOTUS decision crammed down their throats, and then asked if they should be recalled or not.

    No Council, Legislature, etc., can defend not equipping cars with video. It is the most cost-effective way to preserve the truth of the actions of the police and the people they interact with. The FBI’s refusal to video interviews is criminal. Ideally, all interactions with civilians by LE would be recorded – for the protection of all parties.

    BTW, when they equip those patrol cars, they really should consider having both forward, and rearward facing cameras. It is not that difficult anymore.

    PIT maneuver: This is a LOW-SPEED device to “safely” end a chase. If you are in doubt as to what will happen at high-speed, just tune in to a NASCAR race and see what happens when the front fender of one car contacts the rear quarter-panel of another. It is not safe! Not for either one. Nor is the result predictable.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  51. The Supreme Court gets one right…

    In this post we discussed (and I ranted a little) police pursuits, and specifically a case before the Supreme Court. In Scott v. Harris, a suspect who fled police in a vehicle and was driving like a madman was stopped…

    Cop The Truth (72c8fd)

  52. One more thought:
    When this kid hit Deputy Scott’s patrol car upon effecting his escape from the shopping center/mall parking lot, this entire event (IMO) became a felony – ADW anyone? That raised the bar for the use of force allowed to stop this fiasco. If he would strike a police car, what restraint would he have with another civilian vehicle?

    I certainly hope that this cretin never qualifies for public assistance. I would hate to think that the taxpayers of GA will have to support him in any way for any part of his life.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  53. ADW anyone

    Lets not forget “Leaving the Scene of an accident”…

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  54. Phil #46,

    Actually, that was my quote not PatHMV’s so you two may not agree after all, especially since I’m fairly certain you and I don’t agree. I might agree that this decision is unusual, especially in the extensive use of video evidence and because there aren’t many summary judgment cases that make it to the Supreme Court. However, I don’t see this is an example of an activist Court unless you define activist to mean any result with which you disagree.

    In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court considers only those facts that are most favorable to the party against whom the summary judgment will be entered. Thus, in this case, every court assumed that the facts claimed by the quadriplegic plaintiff were true. The Supreme Court was willing to say that, even assuming plaintiff’s facts were true, it didn’t defeat the deputy’s claim of immunity.

    That probably seems offensive, especially if you believe everyone is entitled to their day in court and you define that as the opportunity for a jury trial and verdict. But summary judgments are an accepted tool in the legal system process, and this seems to me like a reasonable use of that tool.

    DRJ (40716e)

  55. Phil,

    I’m not getting my point across very well so let me try one last time: Just because Justice Stevens disagrees with the other Justices doesn’t make his objection reasonable. We can always find someone who disagrees with something. The issue is what would a reasonably prudent person believe in the same situation.

    Therefore, the question is “If you were driving on that road that night, would you reasonably believe the plaintiff’s driving was dangerous?” Eight of the nine Justices answered with an unqualified “Yes.” The fact that Stevens’ answer was “Maybe” is, frankly, unreasonable.

    DRJ (40716e)

  56. HUH?

    Why is this specific to cops? Why are there all kinds of decisions for all kinds of cases, civil and criminal that are not being decided properly because the definitive evidence is missing?

    TCO (4c403f)

  57. A lot of interesting comments from people with a familiarity with the legal system. As a police officer I always find it interesting to listen to people spending hours debating a legal point and not being able to come to the same conclusion. Especially when we as police officers usually are required to make a decision and take action immediately, with out the luxury of spending hours trying to decide what is the right thing to do. Consider yourself fortunate that you have the luxury of debate with neither your career nor your life on the line based on the outcome of that debate.

    For those who are demanding video tape in all police cars, I agree that they would be nice. But there are some practical reasons why they are not universally used. Prior to the digital age, if you had a department that consisted of thousands of officers, who were on the street 24 hours a day, image the number of video tapes you would have to store. And of course they can’t just be stored anywhere, they would have to be kept in a place where they would not deteriorate and of course they would have to be kept safe since they are legal evidence. This was the reason many larger departments did not us them. With the digital age, and the ability to store the info on a hard drive, more agencies are using them. The second issue is just how helpful they really are. Even if you have a camera that points forwards and backwards, the reality is, most action does not happen around the squad car. In ten years I have been shot at several times and been involved in scores of uses of force. None have happened where a squad car camera would have captured them. You weigh that with the cost of purchase, the on going upkeep and maintenance, the training that goes into the whole system, and a lot of Departments decide the money is better spent elsewhere. It is a decision I don’t necessarily agree with, but I can understand it.

    Paul (db94e7)

  58. “As a police officer I always find it interesting to listen to people spending hours debating a legal point and not being able to come to the same conclusion.”

    That’s because we have neither uniformity of dress nor uniformity of thought.

    “Especially when we as police officers usually are required to make a decision and take action immediately, with out the luxury of spending hours trying to decide what is the right thing to do.”

    It’s a responsibility that I greatly appreciate you undertaking. I know I could not.

    “Consider yourself fortunate that you have the luxury of debate with neither your career nor your life on the line based on the outcome of that debate.”

    I appreciate that not everyone can be a police officer any more than everyone can be a doctor or lawyer.

    nk (db0112)

  59. P.S. So how do you feel about private citizens walking around armed?

    nk (db0112)

  60. I could, nk…

    Sadly, a LOT of my choices would be “squeeze the trigger, don’t pull the trigger”

    I have an abismally low tolerance for stupidity. I would make a HORRIBLE cop…

    I’m thus VERY glad for all the cops out there…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  61. Me too, Scott. I’m also very grateful for my dentist and my gardener. I know I could not do their jobs either. Just do not let your servants be your master.

    nk (db0112)

  62. Psst… Paul…

    I think he just called you a servant…

    I’ll be looking somewhere else while you and Mr Nightstick have a chat with him… *puts in earplugs, and starts to hum to himself*

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  63. [Obi wan Kenobi voice] “Do not go to the Silly Side, Scott.”

    nk (db0112)

  64. I am not a lawyer and do not want to be one.
    But I can not understand Justice Stevens’s position on this matter. Is he really saying that anyone can bring a civil lawsuit and just by virtue of the fact that the lawsuit was placed it must go to a jury?

    As for the ‘Rodney King’ video that was brought up – I highly doubt you saw the full video. A key point to the first trial was that the jury saw the full video presented by the prosecution and the defense almost did a frame-by-frame to show what the police saw and why they might have thought justified. In the trial that got the conviction the prosecution did not use the video.

    ps: did anyone else read the AP article by Mark Sherman? Was this the main AP newsfeed on this case? What an embarrassment, regardless of how one feels about the decision.

    seePea (38fcb2)

  65. I have to disagree with the Supreme Court. First of all, I’ve got no confidence in the analytical abilities of these ancients to decide what is safe and what is unsafe in a car. They don’t have any credentials in this area. Everyone knows old people drive like crap. These fossils grew up in an era of rickety unsafe vehicles and slack or non existent driver safety training curricula. Who are these geezers to be commenting on vehicle safety? Are they experts in vehicle safety? No! Their “judgement” is nothing more than personal bias. Of course they think it was unsafe, look at their capabilities. It’s no wonder that the lower courts, which are YOUNGER courts, made the correct finding.

    I watched this video too, both views, and aside from the police intentionally placing themselves in his path, it doesn’t seem to involve much in the way of harm or danger to the public.

    You hysterics who post such tripe as “but what if there was a dead body in the trunk?” , “what if the car was stolen?”…need to relax. So what if there was a body in the trunk? In that case, the body is still dead, catching the car isn’t going to rescusitate a corpse. So the car is stolen, big deal, as far as can be ascertained from the video, its a POS older Caddy, probably not worth 3K at a scrapyard. And what happened to the innocent until proven guilty doctrine? Why is it reasonable for the police to conclude anything about what crimes the suspect MIGHT be guilty of based on a failure to stop? That makes no sense. Should all persons who fail to stop for the cops be automatically assumed to be the most hardened and vicious of felons, just so that the police and people fascinated with sadistic power can justify using deadly force against them? It’s just ridiculous to think this way. Some seriously defective people on this blog. You’re scary folks.

    Let’s remember the original infraction in this case…speeding not even 20 miles per hour over the limit? Have you people ever been in a car? That is done ALL THE TIME. Come to California , you will have coronaries. 90 mph is the average speed on the freeway I drive on. 90! and the limit is 65. Even the big damn big rigs are doing 75, and their limit is 55 mph.

    You folks need to get a grip and realize that giving cops a license to be ramming people who simply dont stop for a mundane traffic ticket is only going to lead to more abuses of power by ego-tripping cops, which is about 90% of them.

    If cops really cared about public safety they wouldn’t be fighting citizen calls for more oversight, since that makes citizens feel more safe. You know what makes me feel unsafe? That some low IQ cop now thinks its okay to escalate a mundane traffic citation into a 10 minute high speed chase, when me, or any other innocent, might be driving around minding my own business and get hit by one of these idiots. If you look at the video, the cop cars were in the oncoming lanes of traffic more often than the fleeing vehicle was. Passing very unsafely.

    These justices don’t know the first thing about safety. Kennedy dismissed the fact that Harris was using his turn signals with the comment that it was like a strangler obeying the no smoking sign. Why do we employ a person who is supposed to be evaluating complex evidence who cannot form a simple, functional analogy? This is totally baffling to me. A minor speeding infraction is NOTHING like murder and using a turn signal is far MORE important than obeying a no smoking sign. How can a Supreme Court justice be such a clueless moron? It’s no wonder our laws get all screwed up at the top, when we have geezers and morons interpreting them.

    john (ca422a)

  66. To the person who wondered what about the liability of the police in the event they either do not pursue or terminate a pursuit and then the fleeing suspect causes a crash involving great bodily injury or death to someone else:

    The Supreme Court, in their “wisdom” have already ruled that there could be no liability, since the police have “no duty to defend” any member of the public. Now, granted I am pretty hard on SCOTUS since they are a bunch of octegenarian certified geezers and have no business telling the rest of America how things should be in the first place, but let’s ruminate for a while on how ridiculous it is that any court, even one probably challenged with Alzheimers and intellects ravaged by age, can come up with a decision that says that a police agency, whose entire REASON FOR BEING is to protect and defend (lives and property), has no duty to defend.

    It should make all of their decisions suspect when you take into account how fundamentally WRONG they have been on many issues. Sometimes they get it right and I have to conclude it’s just accidental. I suppose they have a 50-50 shot at being right, but a functional court, you would expect to be in the 90-100% range.

    Otherwise why not just ask a Magic 8 ball, or flip a coin?

    john (ca422a)

  67. Interesting debate on this case.

    I think the debate stems from the fact that most people simply don’t understand the difference between what a Court/Judge’s role is (i.e., deciding the law) and a jury’s role (i.e., deciding the facts).

    As there was a videotape that depicted precisely what happened, there were no real disputed facts (plaintiff may claim there were disputed facts – i.e., claim that the videotape did not show what it showed).

    As there were no disputed “facts”, the only issue is how does the law apply to those facts? That is what judges/courts are for. But, people see this court deciding on what is/is not reasonable under the law, and believe that is a “factual” question. It is not, it is a legal question. Thus, it was perfectly appropriate for the Court to issue a decision on that question as there were no facts in dispute (and, facts are not in “dispute” just because one side claims they are). Sure, I could claim that I was really driving like a sunday school teacher, but if a clear, objective videotape shows that not to be true, then the facts are not really in dispute – I’m just a lier.

    Juries tend to be swayed by emotion. thus, they would see a quadriplegic kid and think, geeze, what will it hurt if we award him some money from the rich municipality. After all, the kid is seriously injured (think hot coffee and McDonald’s).

    I, for one, am happy to see some common sense prevail at the high court. The fact that only 1 justice dissented speaks loudly as well (and at that, the oldest and perhaps most liberal justice).

    Those who are against the old people of the supreme court deciding anything (John) – I would be all too happy to get our policy-making decisions out of the courts. When the left stops trying to ram their agenda down America’s throat by ignoring democracy and asking court’s to unilaterally implement such leftist agenda, then we won’t have a Supreme Court with as much control over society as it currently has. Ask the left to stop the litigating of everything and maybe we won’t end up here.

    Great Banana (aa0c92)

  68. You hysterics who post such tripe as “but what if there was a dead body in the trunk?” , “what if the car was stolen?”…need to relax. So what if there was a body in the trunk? In that case, the body is still dead, catching the car isn’t going to rescusitate a corpse.

    In my town we recently had a couple of kids who kidnapped a family (man, wife, and 2 year old child) stuffed them in the trunk and then drove around with them (after raping the wife, of course). All on a lark. Just saying.

    So the car is stolen, big deal, as far as can be ascertained from the video, its a POS older Caddy, probably not worth 3K at a scrapyard. .

    So, you want the police to defend property of other’s based on the properties value. thus, the police should spend more time, effort and money protecting the rich? Or, is that not your point? Does the cop make the “value” judgment of stolen property based on his/her own instincts – or will they carry a blue book around with them to determine when they should care about stolen property?

    And what happened to the innocent until proven guilty doctrine?

    Ummm, last I checked, speeding and then going on a high speed chase violated laws. I’m not sure what you are arguing for here – that police not be allowed to ever pull someone over? that people have an unfettered right to refuse to stop for the police and engage in highs-speed chases?

    Why is it reasonable for the police to conclude anything about what crimes the suspect MIGHT be guilty of based on a failure to stop? That makes no sense. Should all persons who fail to stop for the cops be automatically assumed to be the most hardened and vicious of felons, just so that the police and people fascinated with sadistic power can justify using deadly force against them? It’s just ridiculous to think this way.

    I repeat: Ummm, last I checked, speeding and then going on a high speed chase violated laws. I’m not sure what you are arguing for here – that police not be allowed to ever pull someone over? that people have an unfettered right to refuse to stop for the police and engage in highs-speed chases?

    Some seriously defective people on this blog. You’re scary folks.

    I avoided the ad hominem up to now, but to respond, your comments lack an semblence of rational thought. Seriously, did you even think about this past your very first emotion? Did you spend any time at all in rational thought before commenting at length?

    Great Banana (aa0c92)

  69. The Supreme Court, in their “wisdom” have already ruled that there could be no liability, since the police have “no duty to defend” any member of the public. Now, granted I am pretty hard on SCOTUS since they are a bunch of octegenarian certified geezers and have no business telling the rest of America how things should be in the first place, but let’s ruminate for a while on how ridiculous it is that any court, even one probably challenged with Alzheimers and intellects ravaged by age, can come up with a decision that says that a police agency, whose entire REASON FOR BEING is to protect and defend (lives and property), has no duty to defend.

    there is almost a kernel of understanding of the law in this rant. the law is that the police have no specific duty to protect any particular individual.

    Thus, Joe Smith can’t sue the police when he is assaulted by some third-party and claim that the police failed to protect him. Otherwise, every crime victim in America could sue his/her police department for “failiing to protect them.”

    Accordingly, the law makes perfect sense. Now, there are obvious exceptions to this law. If the police for some reason become responsible for someone’s protection – say for instance they take you into custody, then they obviously have a responsibility to protect you from assault from a third party.

    As to the age of the Supreme Court justices, I suppose you believe that with youth comes wisdom?

    I’ve heard a lot of people disagree with various court decisions, but the only time I hear age mentioned is when someone who is very liberal believes his/her favored outcome would be more likely with someone younger – on the assumption that younger people are more liberal. I don’t suppose that describes you?

    Great Banana (aa0c92)

  70. First I’ve seen of the video, and I live in Coweta County. The places seen during the chase are known to me, although the darkness and the passage of six years made it hard to recognize some of them. I did recognize the gas station just before the deputy in the first car said the chase was passing the “Hot Spot.”

    Thanks to that landmark I was able to tell when the turn into the shopping center was about to happen, but after that I was lost until the first deputy mentioned “TDK” (I obviously hadn’t paid very close attention to the story despite its fairly intensive coverage in the Newnan newspaper). There’s a Best Western near that intersection where my wife and I stayed when we first moved to this area in 1999.

    speeding not even 20 miles per hour over the limit? Have you people ever been in a car? That is done ALL THE TIME.

    Not on a two-lane highway in rural Georgia it isn’t. And even in California, if you’re driving along even at the speed limit, and a cop puts on his lights behind you, what are you going to do? At the very least you should move over to get out of his way — and if he pulls in behind you, you’re going to find it much easuier to get the misunderstanding straightened out than if you try to flee.

    Just sayin’.

    McGehee (25adee)

  71. So, John #65, I take it you drive this way all the time.

    DRJ (40716e)

  72. A quote on the story from Mike Lief’s blog:

    The law was written by rich white men for rich white men. Racist cops can run you off the road or even kill you if they decide that you dont fit in the neighborhood. Racist white America will always oink for the pigs when the black man and poor people get abused by the white power structure.

    It gives me a warm fuzzy when I see people use race as a way to justify one’s payback from idiotic behavior. Don’t break the law, don’t run from the cops, do what they say, and the odds of stuff like this happening to you will become exponentially slim- no matter what color you are.

    Trickish Knave (26622e)

  73. My disagreement with the SCOTUS ruling stems from the justices’ making a determination as to the reasonableness of the officer’s actions based on the level of recklessness the state claims the plaintif’s driving rose to. That very much IS an issue of fact, not of law. The justices have not been certified as experts on safe driving. The state did not present any evidence or present a person who’s safety was endangered, except for the plaintiff and possibly, one could argue, the police officers involved in the chase, so how can they make a substantive finding that the plaintiff drove recklessly? The appellate courts did the right thing by dismissing the state’s defense that recklessness justified the officer’s actions, because the state did not put on a case that proved these allegations, all they presented was this video evidence, which does not establish that anyone was endangered or that the defendant drove in a reckless matter. Speeding is not inherently unsafe OR reckless. You can’t make a determination that this was reckless or endangerment or that public harm was threatened simply because of the video. And that is a requirement to meet the provisions of the deadly force doctrine as it exists from case law, the appellate court got this one EXACTLY right and SCOTUS screwed it all up.

    Im not at all surprised they did it, for the reasons mentioned.

    john (492c26)

  74. DRJ, no I am referring to the original infraction. I see much worse in everday commute traffic. I guess rural Georgia is different, this kind of thing appears to rile people up. I cannot help but picture Boss Hogg and Roscoe P Coltrane in hot pursuit of the Duke boys.

    john (492c26)

  75. Great Banana:

    there is almost a kernel of understanding of the law in this rant. the law is that the police have no specific duty to protect any particular individual.
    It’s not just a kernel, that is the fundamental reality of liability for failure to defend. It’s not a duty.

    Thus, Joe Smith can’t sue the police when he is assaulted by some third-party and claim that the police failed to protect him. Otherwise, every crime victim in America could sue his/her police department for “failiing to protect them.”

    Correct.

    Accordingly, the law makes perfect sense. Now, there are obvious exceptions to this law. If the police for some reason become responsible for someone’s protection – say for instance they take you into custody, then they obviously have a responsibility to protect you from assault from a third party.

    WEll thats debatable. In theory yes in practice this is ignored and hence there is a large prisoners rights movement to get improved legislation specifically addressing the level of protection legally required for inmates and other persons in custody, since inmates are habitually the victims of rape, assault, and harassment while incarcerated.

    Hey, I wonder if you could apply the doctrine that the police have limited the freedom of the plaintiff to move and thus have become responsible for his safety. Technically that occurred when they first tried to box him into that parking lot, and then again when they rammed his car. I’m sure his counsel thought of that tactic…so it just have some technical flaws.

    john (492c26)

  76. So, you want the police to defend property of other’s based on the properties value.
    Well, yes as a matter of fact I do. I don’t expect an officer to risk life and limb to recover a replaceable, insured piece of property. I do expect them to risk life and limb to protect someone’s life or limbs, of course. I don’t think a stolen car by itself, represents something worse risking anyone’s LIFE for. Do you think the police should make the same effort to catch a petty thief as a bank robber? Two different crimes.

    thus, the police should spend more time, effort and money protecting the rich?
    Thats not what I said, at all.

    Or, is that not your point? Does the cop make the “value” judgment of stolen property based on his/her own instincts – or will they carry a blue book around with them to determine when they should care about stolen property?
    First of all the car was not reported stolen, so the police had no reason to think so. All they were investigating was a minor traffic violation. And that’s exactly how this should have been treated from a perspective of applying a pursuit policy, which obviously they did not have, or did not have a good one.

    And what happened to the innocent until proven guilty doctrine?

    Ummm, last I checked, speeding and then going on a high speed chase violated laws. I’m not sure what you are arguing for here – that police not be allowed to ever pull someone over? that people have an unfettered right to refuse to stop for the police and engage in highs-speed chases?
    I’m referring to the rationalization on the part of the court that they found it reasonable that the police assumed there must have been some other a priori offense committed by the plaintiff when no evidence was presented to substantiate such a belief. That’s the part that violates the assumption of innocence. This is the whole problem with SCOTUS, how can they ignore and dismiss the effects of such a FUNDAMENTAL civil liberty? I simply cannot comprehend this behavior. Its very prejudicial and they completely ignored it, heck , they condoned it! So wrong.

    I avoided the ad hominem up to now, but to respond, your comments lack an semblence of rational thought. Seriously, did you even think about this past your very first emotion? Did you spend any time at all in rational thought before commenting at length?
    My response is the same as the above. People who responded to this post clearly have no regard for the doctrine of presumed innocence. How can you apply laws fairly if you don’t hold the basic protections in the highest possible regard? That’s what a court should do, they didnt do it. That’s what a law enforcement agency should do, they didn’t do it either. Using the rationalization of “public safety” the police proceeded to send multiple vehicles barreling down public roads at speeds greater than that of the suspect, for what, to INCREASE public safety? It’s an obviously hypocritical and self-contradictory situation. No, the police were just pissed that someone didn;’t obey them (the whole “contempt of cop” thing which is 100% nothing more than an ego trip), and they wanted to get this guy and run him off the road, by god. And they did. But they weren’t entitled to do it and there were better solutions to the situation that would have reduced any risk to the public safety. What about a roadblock? It was a two lane road, no? Couldn’t they have simply blocked the road? Put down spike strips? Only in the south, do you expect this kind of unsophisticated brutish response to a simple issue.

    john (492c26)

  77. One last comment. What exactly did OFficer Scott THINK would be the result of ramming HArris at 90 mph? How could a reasonable person undertake that ramming maneuver not having SOME intention of its likely effect? ARe you going to defend him by saying he simply watched too many cartoons? And thought that you can just run a car off the road at 90 mph and things will be okay?

    He already knew the PIT maneuver was too dangerous. So why would he think that the ramming was any less so?

    The cops were wrong, the 11’th circuit court was right, and SCOTUS was totally wrong, except for Stevens…bully for him.

    john (492c26)

  78. I SAY AGAIN, why does Pat think that the video is so special wrt police officers? Surely there are all kinds of non-police cases, where false decisions may come in sans videotape (or other conclusive evidence). Basically Pat, doesn’t trust the juries and the legal system to get things right.

    So, if that’s the case, why is it only police officers being damaged that worries him? What about all the other screwed up decisions?

    TCO (4c403f)

  79. john –

    You are certainly have a right to your opinion. You also have the right to free speech to speak it. The US Constitution establishes those rights as does US law.

    The driver of that car did not have the right to speed and break other laws. He did not have the right to refuse the lawful demands to stop by officers of the law, the same law that gives you and the driver the rights in my first paragraph. He did not have the right to hit a police car and continue his unlawful flight.

    The tapes clearly show that there were other drivers on the roads, lawful and innocent drivers that he put at risk. He, OTOH, had forfeited any presumption of innocence by his repeated lawbreaking. Instead, if there were any presumptions to be made, I would think they would be presumption of guilt of some crime or crimes that the driver feared would be detected. He could, as others suggested, have innocents tied up in the car, whose lives depended on the driver being stopped. He could also be a murderer (or wanted terrorist with bomb in car, or anything of that sort) whose detention would reveal his identity.

    I would assert that he has established by his actions a presumption of guilt.

    Your idea of nail strips (etc.) sounds infeasible to me under the conditions of this case. There look to be a great many possible flight routes and so little time, time that I would hope officers of the law would use instead to try to keep safe law abiding innocents properly using the public thoroughfares.

    jim (6482d8)

  80. TCO –

    “Pat” might say that the legal system DID get it right. It’s just that the legal system does not consist solely of juries.

    On police officers being damaged, I would assert that any inability to prevent all “screwed up decisions” would seem the worst reason of all not to prevent those that one can prevent.

    jim (a9ab88)

  81. 79:

    Pat is happy with the final result of the legal system, but is concerned that it would not have happened without the video. Did you not get that?

    TCO (4c403f)

  82. Re #75
    I don’t think a stolen car by itself, represents something worse risking anyone’s LIFE for.
    Then the person who stole it shouldn’t take off and run.

    thus, the police should spend more time, effort and money protecting the rich?
    Thats not what I said, at all.
    But by refferencing the value of the vehical, it is exactly what you implied.

    First of all the car was not reported stolen, so the police had no reason to think so. All they were investigating was a minor traffic violation. And that’s exactly how this should have been treated from a perspective of applying a pursuit policy, which obviously they did not have, or did not have a good one.
    It is common sense that if someone is willing to commit an arrestable crime to avoid a minor traffic stop, they are very possibly guilty of something else the cops would like to know about. Don’t run from the cops, it pisses them off. Fleeing from the cops is a sign law enforcement has ALWAYS used in this country as an indicator that greater attention should be placed upon the suspect. And the cops WITNESS the crime. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a great idea, but when you SEE the crime happen, it’s moot.

    This is the whole problem with SCOTUS, how can they ignore and dismiss the effects of such a FUNDAMENTAL civil liberty? I simply cannot comprehend this behavior. Its very prejudicial and they completely ignored it, heck , they condoned it! So wrong.
    Like I said. When someone takes off and fails to stop because the police are pulling them over for a minor traffic stop, then that SHOULD be a sign to the police that they need to look at this person harder. Investigate them harder. An investigation assumes some degree of “I think he’s guilty”, otherwise why check them? Running from the cops is not a liberty anyone has. I’m a libertarian, and trust me, it’s against the public civic good to reward bad behavior. Running from the cops is dangerous. The moment you start to run you have made the decision to place the lives of others in danger. That must NOT be allowed. You don’t have the freedom to ignorantly risk the lives of someone else. I give up the freedom to kill people so that others don’t have the freedom to kill me. It’s a fair trade.

    People who responded to this post clearly have no regard for the doctrine of presumed innocence. How can you apply laws fairly if you don’t hold the basic protections in the highest possible regard?

    I have a great deal of regard for the doctrine of presumed innocence. I have more regard – at least in this case and those like it – for the doctrine of obeying the lawful orders and acommands of peace officers. Disobey them, and you accept the inherrant penalties. By speeding away and continuing to speed away, you accept that you may very well crash, and you accept that you may be injured in the crash. You are making the criminal to be preternaturally innocent. He broke several laws will clear intent. He caused the chase, he caused the actions of the police to be taken.

    He’s just paying the price, and is getting whiney about it.

    Scott Jacobs (feb2f7)

  83. TCO at 80 –

    You’re changing the subject from the post of yours to which I responded but the answer to your question at #80 is “yes”. In fact, look at my post at #8 and you’ll see that I pointed out that the tape was key according to SCOTUS in one decision footnote.

    jim (6482d8)

  84. John says:

    the justices have not been certified as experts on safe driving.

    And the jury has been so certitied? there does not need to be any “experts” on “safe driving” to determine this case. That is another issue entirely, but U.S. litigation is seriously overburdened with “experts” opining on things that are really within the ability of lay people to determine. Besides, as any practicing attorney can tell you, you can find an expert on any side of any issue – so what does that accomplish?

    Moreover, the “doctrine of presumed innocence” has absolutely no relevance to this situation.

    That is a doctrine that means that the prosecution has to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the defendant does not have to affirmatively prove his innocence, when the case goes to criminal trial. This case was about civil liability, not criminal guilt.

    It has nothing to do with police procedure or criminal investigations. Thus, when you say My response is the same as the above. People who responded to this post clearly have no regard for the doctrine of presumed innocence. How can you apply laws fairly if you don’t hold the basic protections in the highest possible regard?

    The police’s job is to enforce laws and attempt to catch those who violate laws. Thus, when someone speeeds away from the police during a traffic stop, it is proper for the police to follow. If that person is injured during the course of their own reckless conduct, they have no right to sue the police. What you think this has to do with “presumed innocence” I can only guess at.

    You must be thinking that if the police have no actual evidence of a felony, then they should not investigate or pursue the person running away. That is not, and never has been, a doctrine in the U.S., and is not what is meant by “presumed innocent”.

    Again, that is nonesense and is completely unworkable. And your responses to my explanation of the police’s duty to protect any particular individual demonstrates a lack of knowledge of either the law in general or the law in this particular area.

    So, it is perfectly understandable that you side with Stevens.

    You also don’t understand the difference between fact and law. A fact is whether or not the car was travelling above 85 miles per hour. Whether or not it was reasonable under the constitution to use the maneuver used to stop a car going over 85 mph is a question of law. This has always been the case.

    Otherwise, we would have different juries in the same city, or other city or states, answering the same question in opposite ways. Then, the U.S. constitution would mean entirely different things depending upon where in the country you were – and even depending upon what jury you had in the same city. That would be ridiculous.

    Now, that is not to say that arguments can be made that the Supreme Court came out on the wrong side in this case, and could have determined that the force used was “excessive” under the constitution. Arguments can be made for that result. However, that is not the same thing as arguing that the Supreme Court was wrong in deciding the issue at all.

    Most people don’t understand the difference between a question of fact and a question of law. I run into attorneys who don’t understand the difference every day in my legal practice.

    Finally, just because the U.S. Supreme Court found this way, does not mean that claims under state law or state constitutions would come out the same way.

    Great Banana (aa0c92)

  85. John,

    Using the rationalization of “public safety” the police proceeded to send multiple vehicles barreling down public roads at speeds greater than that of the suspect, for what, to INCREASE public safety? It’s an obviously hypocritical and self-contradictory situation.

    See, this is a question of public policy and accountability of the police department – which is dealt with through elections (i.e., the mayor and city council who oversee teh police) NOT litigation. Many jurisdictions have policies to NOT engage in high speed chases unless it is to apprehend a violent criminal. I don’t have any problem with such policies – but that is different from claiming that this particular plaintiff’s Consititutional Rights were violated by teh police in this case. I think you are getting confused between policies you want to see enacted and what the Constitution actually states. This is a typical problem with a certain political viewpoint (i.e., the left).

    No, the police were just pissed that someone didn;’t obey them (the whole “contempt of cop” thing which is 100% nothing more than an ego trip), and they wanted to get this guy and run him off the road, by god. And they did. But they weren’t entitled to do it and there were better solutions to the situation that would have reduced any risk to the public safety. What about a roadblock? It was a two lane road, no? Couldn’t they have simply blocked the road? Put down spike strips?

    As I stated above, these are policy questions – look to elections and influencing your Mayor, etc. I don’t know whether such things were possible in this particular situation (they are not always possible), and even if such tactics were possible, it does not mean that the police were “Constitutionally” required to use them rather than the technique used. Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Why should the plaintiff be allowed to escape the consequences of his own actions?

    As to the “contempt of cop” claim, I’ll just state that if the police fail to ensure that their orders are followed, then nobody will follow such orders, and then what happens to law and order? Safety on the roads? If everyone is entitled to simply refuse to pull over and stop, and instead can ignore all road rules and traffic devices, then what happens to safety? You can’t have it both ways.

    Only in the south, do you expect this kind of unsophisticated brutish response to a simple issue.

    And, the typical liberal-left type of argument.

    As I stated previously, you really don’t understand the legal issues involved. An argument could be made that the decision was wrong and that employing such a technique is “excessive force” under the U.S. Constitution, but you have not even approached such an argument.

    Your argument seems to be:

    1) the police had no right to pull this guy over because he was presumed innocent;
    2) the police had no right to chase this guy because he was presumed innocent;
    3) the police had no right to chase this guy b/c the car was not worth that much;
    4) the police had no right to chase this guy b/c they had no proof of any crime other than the speeding;
    5) the police had no right to use the technique they did b/c it resulted in injury;
    6) the supreme court had no right to decide this case b/c only a jury can decide what is “excessive force” under the constitution;
    7) the supreme court had no right to decide this case b/c they are old;
    8) the supreme court had no right to decide this case b/c they are not certified as “safe driving” experts.

    None of those arguments were even in play here.

    Great Banana (aa0c92)

  86. comments directed to GB:

    And the jury has been so certitied? there does not need to be any “experts” on “safe driving” to determine this case.
    No, the jury is not certified of course. I fail to understand? while you accuse me of not understanding the law, I know that the jury’s only job is to assess evidence. That’s it. The jury is not allowed, just like the judge is not allowed, to reach conclusions based on evidence not presented in court. When evidence conflicts a juror needs to weigh the credibility of the evidence. But in this case, where the only evidence on the question is the video, basing a finding of guilt, or fact, on a personal interpretation, rather than the onjective opinion of an expert, or expert evidence, is prejudicial. This is why we have experts. The state’s case did not included a presentation of such evidence, merely this video. Let me give you an exercise, what if you convened a jury who ALL believed that anytime someone exceeds the speed limit by 10 mph, thats reckless driving? And you were to go to trial on these minor cases and win convictions. Is this fair? No, of course not. And this is the same standard even though the facts are more complicated. If you do find it proper to leave a determination of such a finding up to the “reasonable person” standard, this activity CLEARLY belongs in the jury room, NOT at the bench! Otherwise, WHY HAVE JURIES in the first place!?

    That is another issue entirely, but U.S. litigation is seriously overburdened with “experts” opining on things that are really within the ability of lay people to determine. Besides, as any practicing attorney can tell you, you can find an expert on any side of any issue – so what does that accomplish?
    I would argue it accomplishes proper procedure and removes some personal bias from the process a jury goes through. This is clearly in the interest of justice.

    Moreover, the “doctrine of presumed innocence” has absolutely no relevance to this situation.
    I understand your point because this was a civil case. But I would argue that yes, it does, because if a jury in a criminal case weighing the same alleged misdeed, had the same disregard for this as the justices, in their thinking, their approach to the case, that would be grounds for a mistrial. Another reason why this case should have ended at the appellate review.

    That is a doctrine that means that the prosecution has to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the defendant does not have to affirmatively prove his innocence, when the case goes to criminal trial. This case was about civil liability, not criminal guilt.
    I’m not referring to the criminality, I’m referring to the criteria used by the court to evaluate the culpability of the plaintiff. But you r point is well taken. I’m also concerned that this decision will be used to weaken the ability to criminally charge rogue and overstepping cops.

    It has nothing to do with police procedure or criminal investigations. Thus, when you say My response is the same as the above. People who responded to this post clearly have no regard for the doctrine of presumed innocence. How can you apply laws fairly if you don’t hold the basic protections in the highest possible regard?

    The police’s job is to enforce laws and attempt to catch those who violate laws. Thus, when someone speeeds away from the police during a traffic stop, it is proper for the police to follow. If that person is injured during the course of their own reckless conduct, they have no right to sue the police.
    But Mr Harris’ injuries were not the result of his own conduct. He was rammed off the road by a police car. Excessive force was used.

    What you think this has to do with “presumed innocence” I can only guess at.
    Well the most important thing it goes to is the treatment that Mr Harris received, was out of proportion to the offense committed. The police, had they not automatically assumed a greater crime had occurred, nor been ego trippers incensed by his disobeyal of their orders, could have acted differently with less force. This was a criminal matter at the time, even though the resulting litigation was civil, it might have been just as easily, if not now, someday, criminal also. And then are you going to ignore this too? No of course not.

    You must be thinking that if the police have no actual evidence of a felony, then they should not investigate or pursue the person running away. That is not, and never has been, a doctrine in the U.S., and is not what is meant by “presumed innocent”.
    I didnt say that, and that’s not true. There was no felony, only a minor traffic violation. Police have the right to pursue a fleeing felon, but to assume a suspect is one, solely on the basis on flight or attempted flight, and base their actions on that assumption or suspicion, is not justified. This is precisely the mechanism that resulted in excessive force being applied.

    Again, that is nonesense and is completely unworkable. And your responses to my explanation of the police’s duty to protect any particular individual demonstrates a lack of knowledge of either the law in general or the law in this particular area.
    Err, how so? The police have no duty to protect anyone from a fleeing suspect.

    So, it is perfectly understandable that you side with Stevens.
    Stevens understands the heart of this case and where it got derailed. This seems to me to be all off on tangents.

    You also don’t understand the difference between fact and law. A fact is whether or not the car was travelling above 85 miles per hour. Whether or not it was reasonable under the constitution to use the maneuver used to stop a car going over 85 mph is a question of law.
    No, that is NOT a question of law. Laws are not subjective. Making a finding of reasonableness is rarely a question of law, except under precedent, but rather a question of whether the facts and evidence of the case rise to the standards required BY LAW, whether case law, or statutory . I just can’t agree with your generalization.

    This has always been the case.
    I just can not, do not, see it this way.

    Otherwise, we would have different juries in the same city, or other city or states, answering the same question in opposite ways.
    But, that’s exactly what happens.

    Then, the U.S. constitution would mean entirely different things depending upon where in the country you were – and even depending upon what jury you had in the same city. That would be ridiculous.
    Reasonableness *is* a community standard because it is based on the assessment of reasonable people, which are supposed to be jurors. Just look at the hot disagreement on the severity of the original infraction between left coast folks like me, and locals. “that aint how we do things down here”

    Now, that is not to say that arguments can be made that the Supreme Court came out on the wrong side in this case, and could have determined that the force used was “excessive” under the constitution. Arguments can be made for that result. However, that is not the same thing as arguing that the Supreme Court was wrong in deciding the issue at all.
    Yes, they were wrong to decide it at all. Because they made prejudicial findings that belonged in front of a jury, to establish their opinion. That’s clearly not their role.

    Most people don’t understand the difference between a question of fact and a question of law. I run into attorneys who don’t understand the difference every day in my legal practice.

    Finally, just because the U.S. Supreme Court found this way, does not mean that claims under state law or state constitutions would come out the same way.
    If you are saying that this ruling will not serve as a precedent for future claims filed in lower courts..I dont understand that at all. How can it not? Its the highest court in the land.

    john (ca422a)

  87. I’ll answer the first thing I saw first, which also clearly indicates you have a limited understanding of our legal system:

    If you are saying that this ruling will not serve as a precedent for future claims filed in lower courts..I dont understand that at all. How can it not? Its the highest court in the land.

    No. There are two different legal systems in our country – the state and Federal.

    Gnerally speaking, a state can have laws or a state constitution that is much more generous to potential plaintiffs in terms of suing the police.

    This decision is addressing the issue of our federal constitution.

    I’ll give you a for instance. in new york, such a claim can be brought under the Federal Constitution, as well as under the NY State constitution.

    the U.S. Supreme court has no power to interpret the NY State Constitution (except to the extent that it violates the U.S. Constitution). Instead, only NY’s Highest STATE court can do that.

    Thus, NY’s Court of Appeals (our hightest court) can interpret the NY State constitution as making such a tactic as used in this case “excessive force” under the State Constitution.

    thus, the plaintiff would not have a claim against the police under th U.S. Constitution but may have a claim under th NY STATe constituon. In such a case, they would bring their lawsuit in State, rather than federal court.

    Great Banana (aa0c92)

  88. John,

    In all seriousness, after reading your responses to my last comments, I don’t think you have a grasp of America’s legal system, the U.S. Constitution, the role of a jury, the role of experts, or anything else dealing with our legal system. For instance – you write:

    basing a finding of guilt, or fact, on a personal interpretation, rather than the onjective opinion of an expert, or expert evidence, is prejudicial

    This implies that you believe that when an “expert” testifies in a case he/she is disinterested and completely objective. this is simply not true. Experts are hired and paid by either side of a lawsuit to provide an expert opinion that helps that side’s case. Thus, there is nothing really “objective” about “expert opinion” or “expert testimony.” It is all bought and paid for by one side or the other. Thus, cases come down to “a battle of the experts.” As I said earlier, you can find an expert to give you just about any opinion you want. and that is exactly what happens. Moreover, “safe driving” is not something that would ever require “expert” opinion, as it is a common sense issue – thus expert opinion on this would probably not even be allowed. Moreover, if we could honestly find “experts” that were truly objective and could come up with the answer, why have juries? Why have judges? Just let the “expert” decide.

    You also write “Laws are not subjective.”

    Then why have a court system at all? The whole purpose of judges and courts is to interpret the law (I’m pretty convinced that you do not understand this). Why would something need to be interpreted if it was not vague (i.e., to some extent, subjective). It is impossible to write any law that can not be interpreted in many different ways. Thus, the entire purpose of litigation and the court system.

    You also state: This has always been the case.
    I just can not, do not, see it this way.

    I hate to be mean, but what I stated is a simple fact. Whether you “see it” that way or not does not change the fact that I am correct. It simply demonstrates, again, your limited knowledge and understanding of our legal system.

    You also talk a lot about “reasonableness”. You are correct that in a personal injury case, under STATE law (you have basically stated that you don’t understand the difference between state and federal law), reasonablesness is defined by the local community. That is not the standard used to interpret the FEDERAL CONSTITUTION. You are arguing apples and oranges.

    I would have to write a book to correct everything you have wrong. Suffice it to say, I am a practicing lawyer and you do not have a grasp of the basic concepts involved.

    I am not saying that the concepts involved are too difficult for the average person. Most people understand these concepts from high school civics. But, I don’t know if you never attended such a class, or what, but you do not have any understanding of our legal system.

    I am not trying to insult you, but I think it would be in your best interest to find some kind of entry level book about our legal system, federalism, jury trials, etc. and then come back to this issue and form an opinion.

    I simply cannot really educate you as to our legal system in the confines of this forum. I teach, for instance, a Business Law course at a local community college, which goes over most of these concepts. I would highly recommend something like that to you to get a better grasp of our legal system.

    Great Banana (aa0c92)

  89. Let me offer my opinion on the troublesome law/fact distinctions being made here.

    The crucial question is whether the Deputy Scott’s act was a reasonable seizure under the 4th Amendment, or whether it was unreasonable and therefore violated Harris’s 4th Amendment rights.

    The reasonableness of the act is a question of fact for the jury – UNTIL a judge takes the determination out of the jury’s hands by deeming that “no reasonable jury” could find the act reasonable/unreasonable. When a judge makes that determination, he is deeming the act reasonable/unreasonable AS A MATTER OF LAW.

    This is the only way to win by summary judgment – the evidence viewed in the light (with the inferences) most favorable to the nonmoving party must be such that no reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party. Thus, there being no genuine issue (relevant disputed fact) for trial, summary judgment is appropriate.

    Justice Scalia concludes his summary judgment discussion, writing: “When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record [the video], so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” (Slip Opinion, Opinion of the Court @ 7.)

    But whether a party’s “story” is “blatantly contradicted by the record” is a determination of fact – Scalia’s own determination of fact. Disagreeing with Scalia’s decisive personal feelings about the facts are the District Court Judge, the Eleventh Circuit’s three judge panel, AND Justice Stevens. Based on their differing view, these judges conclude that summary judgment is inappropriate and the jury should decide the case.

    Justice Stephens skewers Scalia perfectly: If two groups of judges can disagree so vehemently about the nature of the pursuit and the circumstances surrounding that pursuit, it seems eminently likely that a reasonable juror could disagree with this Court’s characterization of events. (Slip Opinion, Dissent @ 8.)

    The majority Justices are too comfortable (ie arrogant) with their own fact-finding skill, branding fellow sitting judges and potential jurors unreasonable for their actual and potential disagreement. If you disagree with me (as you have) then you are unreasonable. You are unreasonable, I am not.

    This is EXACTLY the sort of disagreement of perception that should make denial of summary judgment AUTOMATIC: imminently reasonable people steeped in the law have already disagreed in interpreting the facts.

    B

    an attorney (bab155)

  90. The 11’th saw the same videotape SCOTUS saw. SCOTUS sees the issue as a “factbound morass of reasonableness”. If lower courts have already decided this issue can be decided by a jury, what makes SCOTUS more qualified, given their jurisdictional “distance” from the case, to make a determination?

    Obviously this “morass” is not factbound, but instead is “bias bound”. Facts are indisputable, the content of the videotape establishes nothing that was not already admitted by the plaintiff, but does not prove the state’s defense and it is far beyond the SCOTUS role to make a defense for the state. I believe that they apparently felt it was the plantiff’s duty to impeach the defense and that they did not do so. More on that later.

    Thus, only bias can account for the statement made by Scalia: “When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record [the video], so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.”

    Now how can Scalia possibly have any idea what a reasonable jury will believe? Is he Everyman? Far from it. Did he just call the 11’th unreasonable?

    Here is what Stevens said :The justice said it was not clear the chase threatened the lives of other citizens since the roads were mostly empty. “The risk inherent in justifying unwarranted police conduct on the basis of unfounded assumptions are unacceptable, particularly when less dramatic measures … could have avoided such a tragic result,” he cautioned.” He went on to say “whether a person’s actions have risen to a level warranting deadly force is a question of fact best reserved for a jury.”

    Exactly.

    And here is where the plaintiffs messed up: the majority opinion said “Scott defends his actions by pointing to the paramount governmental interest in ensuring public safety, and respondent nowhere suggests this was not the purpose motivating Scott’s behavior.”

    As can be reasonably deduced from transcripts, and comments like “let me have him, my car’s already tore up”, at least SOME motivation for this pursuit was ego stemming from “contempt of cop” ..nothing more than wounded pride. Had the police truly had the paramount interest in public safety at heart, they could attempted to have set up roadblocks and spike strips to stop Harris. This was a two lane road and they had plenty of time to do it. In fact, Ginsburg references this in opinion saying “It is apparent from the record (including the videotape) that local police had blocked off intersections to keep respondent from entering residential neighborhoods and possibly endangering other motorists. I would add that the videos also show that no pedestrians, parked cars, sidewalks, or residences were visible at any time during the chase.”

    Well, if they can block off intersections they could have blocked the whole damn road. it was only two lanes, one each direction. Scott dodges this by saying it was unbeknownst to him. And while that’s true, after sailing through some of these intersections, couldn’t he have called for a roadblock? Made a mutual aid call. Asked dispatch to do it? From the video it appears they stayed on the same road the whole time.

    Furthermore, after 7 minutes with no harm to the public, what was it about the precise moment that Scott rammed Harris with his car that presented an imminent danger to the public safety? Why didn’t Scott ram him in the parking lot when the speeds were low if safety was such a concern? If he had done his job more effectively at the shopping center, the final ramming would not have needed to occur, and better yet, it would not have been deadly at parking lot speeds. Surely there were no offenses AFTER the parking lot incident that were any more egregrious than the ones preceding it?

    We should be surprised that the cops didnt just shoot him up, instead of ramming him, since Scott mentioned the various rulings in his brief that established that particular use of deadly force (shooting into passenger compartment to stop a car chase), but the result was about the same.

    There are some other components of Scott’s brief that also impeachable, like his watery claims about what he did or did not expect to happen when he rammed Harris’s car, which are not believable because they are inconsistent and do not offer any chain or logical steps from premise to conclusion – they are mere assertions which the court took at face value.

    tpr (492c26)

  91. Outstanding ruling by the Supreme Court! The dashboard video camera gives the judicial system an unbiased view into the real world where Police Officers must operate and make split second decisions. Too often the Court must rule based on the “facts” that are mulled over, twisted, re-worded and “articulated” to the point that they are no longer the true account of the incident. Harris’ account of this incident shows how the motivation to win a case can seduce either side into bastardizing the truth to show their party in the best light. Unfortunately, when there is no video evidence, landmark decisions must be made on eloquence instead of the pure, real time, indisputable version of what really took place. Kudos to the Supreme Court for recognizing the value of video evidence and using this case to make a landmark decision that allows the Police to protect the public, without fear of reprisal, from the very people who willfully threatened decency and good order to force their apprehension.

    ejk (9a9528)

  92. While I agree the above case showed police acting properly, the above is prima facie evidence of police abusing their powers:

    Next-door Neighbor Who Is a Cop Has Woman Arrested for Swearing at Her Overflowing Toilet in Her Own Home
    … Woman May Face Up to 90 Days in Jail

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  93. * The below I meant to say, which would be the above now. If that makes any sense.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  94. dog…

    Definitely, the most sensible thing i have seen in a long time….

    dog (111904)

  95. I think that the kid was stupid. First of all, he was speeding. Second, he just kept going. If he had just stopped in the parking lot, He would have paid his sentance and/or fine and it would be done. It is sad, but it all could have been saved.

    Ian Hillenbrand (9c2c0d)

  96. “Naive realism” isn’t the most reasonable way to view the video. See some alternatives here.

    Douglas Galbi (119031)

  97. Look…I came in on this a little late but it’s for a project on the legal system in my buisness law course. As a studying and soon to be lawyer I can look at this case and say that it shouldn’t have made it this far in the court system. This type of evidence should be accepted into the court of appeals and in all common sense, you can see that Victor Harris was indeed reckless to an extreme. His actions were unneccesary themselves. He could have pulled over. Breaking the law by running from the officer was his first mistake. One hundred twenty dollar speeding fine, or prison (or in his case immobility and imprisonment). Clearly he put the public at risk and had to be removed from the equation. My last comment is justified by him hitting the police cruiser. this showed that he was in no way going to pull over for anyone. Even if a pedestrian in his family car had pulled in front of Harris, I doubt in all respects that he would have second guessed hitting them out of his way. The police recognised this and took the appropriate action.

    If there is any problem with my reasoning email me and I can defend my position. But, from what I’ve read we all seem to be on the same page.
    lnhs_wrestler@yahoo.com

    bill bonham (114ced)


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