The U.S. Supreme Court made it more difficult for citizens to sue law enforcement officers for their conduct, reported NPR. The High Court decided a qualified immunity case earlier this month, directing the trial court to review a decision to granting summary judgment based on qualified immunity.
The central issue was the doctrine of "qualified immunity," which shields public officials from being sued for actions that fall short of violating a clearly established statutory or constitutional right.
The case involved a high-speed chase and the death of the driver and passenger at police hands. In what the court conceded were tragic circumstances, West Memphis, Ark., police pulled over Donald Rickard for driving with only one functioning headlight. When police asked him to step out of the car, he instead floored the gas pedal, swerving through traffic at high speeds.
Minutes later, he spun out in a parking lot, and again sought to take off, narrowly missing a police officer. Police fired three shots at the fleeing Rickard, but he again did not stop. When he finally crashed the car, police fired 12 shots into the vehicle, resulting in the death of Rickard and his passenger.
Rickard's daughter sued police for using excessive force. In an opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito, the court concluded that the use of deadly force to end a dangerous high-speed chase was constitutional and did not violate any statute. As a result, the police were immune from suit.
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