Author Topic: The Supreme Court Tackles Police Shootings, Excessive Force, and the Fourth Amendment  (Read 253 times)

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Reason by  Damon Root 2.13.2020

The Supreme Court Tackles Police Shootings, Excessive Force, and the Fourth Amendment

What’s at stake in Torres v. Madrid

The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that the Fourth Amendment right to be free from "unreasonable…seizure" includes the right to be free from unreasonable "seizure of the person," meaning detainment or arrest. What is more, as the Court held in California v. Hodari D. (1991), "the mere grasping or application of physical force with lawful authority, whether or not it succeeded in subduing the arrestee," qualifies as a seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, however, apparently never got the memo. In Torres v. Madrid (2019), that court held that no seizure occurred when officers with the New Mexico State Police shot Roxanne Torres twice in the back, because their bullets did not actually stop her from getting away. According to the 10th Circuit, "an officer's intentional shooting of a suspect does not effect a seizure unless the 'gunshot…terminate [the suspect's] movement or otherwise cause the government to have physical control over him.'"

It gets worse. The police shot Torres while she was in her car in the parking lot of her apartment building. The officers were there to arrest somebody else but claimed that they saw Torres acting in a suspicious manner. Torres thought she was being carjacked, later testifying that the officers, who were wearing tactical vests, never identified themselves when they approached her. What she saw were threatening figures standing at her car windows. So she drove away and was shot twice while fleeing for her life. Torres only learned that she had been shot by the cops when she was arrested a day later at the hospital. The excessive force complaint that Torres filed against those officers was killed off by the 10th Circuit's ruling.


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