You’re innocent of a crime, sitting in your running car in an apartment-building parking lot. A couple guys you don’t know and don’t recognize as cops try to pry your door open and you panic, hitting the accelerator.
You flee and they shoot, hitting you and seriously injuring you. You lose function in one arm because of the gunshots.
But you’re told you can’t sue them because they’re police officers and they technically didn’t “seize” you at the time.
That’s the result that officials with the Rutherford Institute are fighting to overturn, in a friend-of-the-court brief in an appeal of the Torres v. Madrid case.
“This particular case underscores the unfortunate reality that we live in an age of hollow justice,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of “Battlefield America: The War on the American People.”
“With every ruling handed down, it becomes apparent that the courts are more inclined to render narrow rulings that protect government interests than they are committed to upholding the rights of the people enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.”
The case now is pending before the Supreme Court, and it could, Rutherford explained, “determine how far the courts may go in shielding police from being held accountable for wrongdoing.”
Its brief was filed jointly with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and argues lower courts were wrong when they ruled the cops who did the shooting did not violate the Fourth Amendment.
The reasoning there was that “because the woman was not arrested, she had not technically been ‘seized’ by the police and, thus, could not sue police for ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’ in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
The background from Rutherford is that:
Early in the morning of July 15, 2014, Roxanne Torres dropped a friend off at an apartment complex in Albuquerque, N.M. After parking and exiting her car, Torres reentered and remained in the car with the engine running and the car doors locked. At that same time, four New Mexico State Police officers arrived at the complex intending to arrest a woman who was not related to Torres. Two of the officers approached Torres’s car and, with guns drawn, attempted to open the driver side door. Because the officers wore indistinguishable dark clothing and Torres did not hear what they shouted at her, Torres mistook them for carjackers and attempted to drive away. After the car moved forward mere inches, the police opened fire on Torres and she accelerated away. The officers continued shooting at Torres, firing 13 shots in all, two of which struck Torres in the back, paralyzing her right arm. Torres drove a short distance before she was forced by her injuries to stop. When a bystander refused to call police on her behalf, she found another car and drove it to a hospital, where she was airlifted to another hospital due to the seriousness of her injuries. She was subsequently arrested on charges related to fleeing the police.
The Supreme Court’s timetable for hearing the case is not yet known.