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Monday, December 05, 2005

Alito: Sick and warped

From the LA Times:
Alito wrote that he saw no constitutional problem with a police officer shooting and killing an unarmed teenager who was fleeing after a $10 home burglary.

"I think the shooting [in this case] can be justified as reasonable," Alito wrote in a 1984 memo to Justice Department officials.

Because the officer could not know for sure why a suspect was fleeing, the courts should not set a rule forbidding the use of deadly force, he said.

"I do not think the Constitution provides an answer to the officer's dilemma," Alito advised.

A year later, however, the Supreme Court used the same case to set a firm national rule against the routine use of "deadly force" against fleeing suspects who pose no danger.

"It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape," wrote Justice Byron White for a 6-3 majority in Tennessee vs. Garner. "Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so."

The 4th Amendment forbids "unreasonable searches and seizures" by the government, and the high court said that killing an unarmed suspect who was subject to arrest amounted to an "unreasonable seizure."

Said White: "A police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead."
BTW, of the six Supremes who voted White in Tennessee vs. Garner, only J.P. Stevens is still on the Court. The three who supported shooting the kid? Then Chief Justice Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and Sandra Day O'Connor. I'd suggest that Byron White, although dead now for three years, would still be a better justice than Scalito. When aWol talks about the "meaning of American justice," he means Scalito's version, not the Constitution's.