Supreme Court reverses case against officer in Tucson police shooting

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Thanks to the Supreme Court, a jury will not get a chance to consider that question.

That warning came Monday after the court found Officer Andrew Kisela immune to criminal charges in the 2010 shooting of Amy Hughes.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that the ruling "sends an alarming signal to law enforcement and the public". She said she never raised the weapon at her roommate or at officers, and that the officer never warned her she would be shot for refusing to drop the large kitchen knife.

The officers drew their guns and told Hughes to drop the knife, but it is not clear that she heard them.

"I'm not sure how, in the future, most terror victims will be able to proceed successfully with a suit under the Anti-Terrorism Act", she said.

The case began on May 21, 2010, when Kisela and Officer-in-Training Alex Garcia responded to a "welfare check" call on a woman who was hacking at a tree with a large kitchen knife and, according to one witness, looking like she was going to do "something insane".

"Suffice it to say, a reasonable police officer could miss the connection between the situation confronting the sniper at Ruby Ridge and the situation confronting Kisela in Hughes' front yard", the justices said. Although the data are not comprehensive, they cover 148,000 police officers in 47 police departments serving 54 million people, and it is the best count to date of those who were shot by police and survived. Chadwick went to her auto to get the money, closely followed by Hughes.

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Hughes' attorneys had argued that it is settled law that an officer can only shoot someone if they have reason to believe the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer or others. Hughes, who matched the description of the welfare-check subject, then walked out of the house, still holding the knife by her side.

At the moment she was shot, Hughes had committed no crime and was not menacing anyone.

According to Reuters, the highest court in the land sided with an Arizona police officer accused of using excessive force against a woman in an incident in 2010.

If the case were tried in open court, she wrote, a jury could have determined whether the officer violated Hughes's constitutional rights "by needlessly resorting to lethal force".

While none of the 9th Circuit's cases addressing excessive force involved circumstances exactly like these, that does not mean Kisela had no way of knowing that what he did was unlawful.

"Use of excessive force is an area of the law "in which the result depends very much on the facts of each case, ' and thus police officers are entitled to qualified immunity unless existing precedent 'squarely governs" the specific facts at issue", the court wrote. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reached the same conclusion in related litigation. In a recent California Law Review article, University of Chicago law professor William Baude notes that the Court nearly always sides with government officials in qualified immunity cases, which makes judges less likely to let people sue them.

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