Sunday, June 14, 2020

Tennessee v. Garner

You'll be hearing a lot about that old 1985 case in the coming weeks.  It's interesting to re-read the case and to listen to oral argument (which you can do here).

The case, per Justice White, held: Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer may use deadly force to prevent the escape of a fleeing suspect only if the officer has a good-faith belief that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.

Here, a state police officer shot and killed Garner as he was fleeing the scene of the crime. Despite knowing that Garner was unarmed, the police officer believed that he was justified in shooting him to prevent his escape. Garner's father brought a constitutional challenge to the Tennessee statute that authorized the use of deadly force in this situation. The state prevailed in the trial court, but the state appellate court ruled that the statute was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court decided that when a non-violent felon is ordered to stop and submit to police, ignoring that order does not give rise to a reasonable good-faith belief that the use of deadly force is necessary, unless it has been threatened.

Justice White was joined by Justices Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, and Stevens.

Justice O'Connor wrote the dissent and was joined by Justices Burger and Rehnquist.

One local connection -- former UM Law Professor, Steve Winter, argued for Garner.  Winter is now at Wayne State University Law School.


Anonymous said...

Landmark Title VII opinion issued today by SCOTUS (6-3 Gorsuch).

Figg said...

Good Call. Atlanta DA announcing his charging decision says the decision is based on Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor.