Monday, April 30, 2007

And It's All On Tape, Part III

One dark night in March, 2001, Victor Harris thought he could outrun Coweta County, Georgia sheriff's deputy Tim Scott. That decision changed the lives of a number of people, including Victor, who will be considering that ill conceived decision long and hard that ended up costing him the use of his legs.

Harris was clocked speeding and took off down a two lane, reaching speeds in excess of 90 mph, passing cars, running red lights, colliding with a police cruiser and getting back out on the highway to again exceed 90 mph. Scott got permission to PIT the fleeing Cadillac but because of the speeds involved instead rammed the Cadillac which swerved off the road and crashed.

Harris was not belted in and received injuries that paralyzed him.

Harris later sued Scott, alleging that he'd violated Harris' rights under the 4th Amendment by ramming the Cadillac to end the chase. The lower court agreed, and this appeal followed.

Speaking for 8 of the nine justices, Justice Scalia pointed out that it was clear from the dash mounted video cam evidence that Harris' driving represented an actual and imminent threat to the lives of pedestrians, other motorists and the other police officers involved. Harris, Justice Scalia noted, intentionally placed himself and the public in great danger by unlawfully engaging in a reckless high speed flight that ultimately produced the choice between two evils that Deputy Scott confronted.

Although the opinion is not a total vindication of hot dog driving, it does place the responsibility of the bad results of a pursuit right where they belong-at the doorstep of the person who started the whole thing.

It's also yet more evidence if it is needed what the value of videotape equipment is. Had a clean videotape not been in existence this case might well have gone the way it went in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The opinion may be retrieved here.


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