Thursday, June 28, 2007

Scott v. Harris - criminals, lies, and videotapes

The USSC recently held in Scott v. Harris, 127 S. Ct. 1769 (2007), that a section 1983 plaintiff could not survive summary judgment by making claims that were inconsistent with the video footage from the police cruisers that chased him at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour. Justice Scalia authored the decision, which held that the officer's attempts to force the suspect off the road were reasonable in light of a dangerous high-speed chase that posed substantial and immediate risk to others.

Scott has been cited by several lower courts. For example, in Miller v. Jensen, 2007 WL 1574761 (N.D. Okla.) the Court viewed patrol car footage that eliminated any "genuine" dispute of fact as to what transpired. The Court held that there was no constitutional violation and that it was reasonable for the officer, after having engaged in a 7 minute high-speed chase which ended on foot, to strike the suspect twice in the face with a gun, aid in tackling the suspect, and urging another officer to use pepper spray to assist in gaining compliance from the suspect in hand-cuffing him. ABL now lays claim to the title of "New York blogger with the most up-to-date coverage of jurisprudence from the Northern District of Oklahoma."

Not only does a patrol car camera assist in defending excessive force claims by suspects, but the lack of footage can be detrimental if the patrol car is equipped but no footage is produced. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently cited Scott and noted that the absence of video footage from a patrol car could provide circumstantial evidence against the officer. Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017 (7th Cir. 2007). Steen went on to affirm defendants' summary judgment motion noting that the standard under County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833 (1998) "set[s] the bar awfully high" by requiring "conscience-shocking behavior and an intent to cause harm unrelated to a legitimate government interest."

Below is the footage from two different patrol cars and a news report on this case.


At 11:05 PM, Blogger Douglas Galbi said...

Editing the Scott v. Harris video can help persons to understand better how video works. Some discussion of this and related issues here.


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