Is shooting a unarmed teenager who stole 10 bucks in the back of the head a reasonable “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment? I think you know how Strip Search Sammy is going to answer this one:
Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s views on abortion caused a stir this week, but another memo that surfaced from his years as a Reagan administration lawyer was notable for its strong support of the police.
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.
The use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. 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. It is no doubt unfortunate when a suspect who is in sight escapes, but the fact that the police arrive a little late or are a little slower afoot does not always justify killing the suspect. A police officer may not seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect by shooting him dead. The Tennessee statute is unconstitutional insofar as it authorizes the use of deadly force against such fleeing suspects.
The one thing you can say is that on this issue Alito may not be more reactionary than his replacement, who wrote the dissent, although whether O’Connor circa 2005 would have voted the same way is highly questionable. Anyway, if you like gutting the Fourth Amendment, you’ll love Sam Alito.
At least now we know why Ann Althouse likes him so much…