Criminal Justice,Criminal Law Constitution |

Criminal Justice,Criminal law Constitution

Case Study of Tennessee Vs. Garner
Over the years, every negative or positive act of criminal violation in the US is
considered transgression of state. In instances of cases such as felony, an individual can be
charged an imprisonment sentence to be served in a state prison. In some particular cases, capital
penalty can also be applied. However, in instances of misdemeanor, imprisonment penalty in
public jail or other reformatories can also be charged. All of these prosecutions are usually
regulated by the Federal Statutes and the Constitutional rules that can sometimes be edited by the
Legislature together with the Acts of Executive and by the U.S Supreme Court accordance to the
Criminal Procedures Federal Rules (Blume, 1984). In addition, criminal law rules and
procedures tend not to be uniform, and as saved in matters regarding the Federal Court, vary
substantially in each member state. We can therefore say that only criminal proceedings rule in
the country states of the American Federation as an unprofessional respect and sacred to the core
democracy principle in the U.S.
The law due processes with the compilation of the rules impose the core subjective law
fundamentals of free will, freedom, life, movements, trial by the jury in serious crimes
committed and individual property respect. It is important to note that there are four major
categories of courts in the U.S: District Courts, Circuit courts, Municipal Courts and the
Supreme Courts. The Supreme Court is on top of the hierarchy. Based on this reason, countless
criminal cases have been resolved in this court such as Mapp v. Ohio (1961), and Illinois v.
Perkins (1990). Of the many cases settled in the Supreme Courts, others have portrayed an
enormous and long-lasting effect on the criminal justice system. This thesis will therefore
investigate the Tennessee v. Garner (1985) case identifying the definite element of the criminal
justice system affected by the decision of the Supreme Court in this particular case and how this
case has continued to have systematic effect on the justice system over the years.
Background and Summary of the Case
This case wants us to find out how the constitution regulates on the use of deadly force in
preventing unarmed suspected individual from escaping arrest. On 3
October, 1974 Memphis
Officers Leslie Wright and Elton Hymon were on duty answering an anonymous inside call
informing them of a felony. On arrival at the site, they found a lady footing on her balcony
gesturing towards the neighboring house. The woman said to them that she before had heard
someone breaking the glass and that somebody was breaking into the adjacent door. Elton went
behind the house as Leslie radioed her dispatcher to notify the others that they had arrived on the
Elton then heard the door bang and saw someone across running across the patch. The
fleeing suspect, who became the plaintiff’s respondent’s decedent, Edward Garner stopped up at
the fence at the yard edge. Elton was now able to see Garner’s hands and face with the help of
flashlight. He saw that Garner was unarmed. With Garner trapped at the base of the fence, Elton
took a few steps towards him. It prompted Garner to start climbing over the fence so as to evade
capture. Certain that suppose Edward Garner jumped over the fence would escape capture; Elton
the police officer fired at him and shot him at the back of the head. Garner was taken to a nearby
health facility but died shortly upon arrival. However, he was found with a purse and ten dollars
he had taken from the house (Powell, 1984).
Justice’s ruling
Garner’s father sued Elton Hymon seeking for damages for the infringement of the
constitutional rights of his son. The courts made a judgment favoring the defendants because
Tennessee statute and Memphis Police Policy at that particular point allowed any officer to
employ excessive force on any felon that may attempt to flee from arrest. The District Court
argued that Garner had ignored any potential threat of being shot by trying to flee recklessly.
However, this ruling was reversed and remanded later by the Court of Appeal for the Sixth
Circuit insisting the murder of any felon is a seizure according to the Fourth Amendment of the
Constitution .It stated that such seizure would only be considered logical if in any way the felon
caused any danger to the officers security or the neighborhood in huge.
The Tennessee statute therefore could not be applied in this specific case since it had
failed in sufficiently limiting the exercise of lethal force through differentiating between felonies
of the various magnitudes (Winter, 1986). The facts as found by the Court of Appeal never
validated the exercise of excessive force as in the Fourth Amendment as the police officers could
not choose to have any apparent cause in believing that the suspect has committed any criminal
act or creates any danger to the lives of community or officers at large.
Specific Component of the Criminal Justice System Affected by the Supreme Court’s
Ultimately, in the year 1985 Tennessee appealed the case at the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, in a six against three ruling of the judges, they sided with the Court of Appeals for the
Sixth Circuit’s decision which enhanced limits on the manner in which officers have to deal with
any felons fleeing. Without hesitating much, police officers and the way they handle their day-to-
day duties were mostly affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling.
This is emphasized by the point that before the Supreme Court’s decision, the officers
could use deadly and excessive force against any fleeing suspect.”…laws controlling police force
utilization of lethal force fell into the one of the four groups: Forcible Felony Rule, Model Penal
Code, Any Felony Rule and Defense-of-Life Rule( Smith 1997).The first was the Any-Felony
Rule which was an English Common Law that gave the officers the go ahead to exercise any
necessary means to take into custody the suspects to avert the suspects from fleeing. There was
the Defense-of-Life Rule whereby in this rule the only instance where the police were allowed to
use the deadly and excessive force was in protecting human life, either a civilian or a police
officer’s life.”
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, most States in the country abided by the Any-
Felony Rule as America interpreted it as a complete and legally admissible to shoot a fleeing
suspect. It gives the reason as to why the District ruled in favor of Hymon. Nevertheless, as
stated earlier, the Court’s decision in an angle wanted the officers to review the sensibleness of
the deadly force seizure according to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. As the nation’s
criminal justice do believe in the due processes, according to the Court’s any exercise of too
much deadly force by the officers in apprehending an escaping suspect defeated the reason and
the intention of the due process in a system whose institution is built on proof and trials beyond
any doubt. This meant that any officer that killed any suspect that in any way attempted to flee
will be forced to skip trial and goes straight to punishment, and one which could not be reversed
by any appeal from any courts (Flanders & Welling, 2016).Therefore, the need for police
intrusion was to be measured against the risks involved. The conclusion was that”Common Law”
any-fleeing-felony rule was not constitutional as it undermined the most important purposes of
the systems of criminal justice called the due process.
Changes in Hiring, Training, and Operational Policies after the Ruling
However, all the way through the 19
and 20
Centuries the rationales of the Common
Law in support of the fleeing-in- felon- rule was abolished. The rule was widely criticized
because the verdict of using deadly force hinged solely if the crime was classified as a
misdemeanor or felony. Overwhelmingly, majority of the police departments came up with new
policies on the employment of lethal force that were very restraining compared to the Common
Law Rule (Walker & Fridell, 1992).
State legislatures slowly started modifying the muted forms of the common law fleeing
rule that restricted the deadly force use. As a result of the ruling, police homicides decreased
advancely by 18% ( Smith, 1997). The impact of this decrease was greatly felt in the
unconstitutional states. The case influenced both the constitutional and the unconstitutional states
to the point of police departments limiting their deadly force guidelines. Most of the departments
resorted to limiting those rule beyond the requirements of the law (Walker & Fridell, 1992). As
of today, even though states have the freedom to implement their own policies and law, the
police officers have to abide by the Court’s decision as majority of the States enforced the
Court’s view and decided to put away with the ruthless “common law” any-fleeing rule.
The officers were as well in a way given the responsibility of using their personal
judgment to determine situations to use excessive and lethal force against the suspect fleeing.
Being more precise and clear,” In situations where the suspect does not pose any risk to police
officers or other civilians, the utilization of deadly force must not be employed. However, in
situations where the officer has a probable cause in believing that the felon in any way creates
any potential risk of harm it is reasonable constitutionally to stop escape through employment of
lethal force” (Flanders & Welling, 2016).
To break this further, if at any instance the fleeing suspect attempts to use any weaponry
to threaten the officer or any civilian involved, or , if the officer has reasons to think that the
suspect has taken part in a specific crime involving infliction or any susceptible infliction of
physical injury, then the officer may employ lethal force if required to avert run away of the
suspect ( Marshall, 1989).For that reason, although the Supreme Court’s ruling based on the
constitution, it made the work of the police officer’s more difficult than it was before. This was
mainly attributed to the fact that the officers were know to employ their own judgment in
determining the instances to employ lethal force on a fleeing suspect which can be distorted at
times. However, in majority of the situations, the officers should always be against employing
the deadly force on the fleeing suspects, as in the Court’s Opinion.
The other operational policy that was affected was the Courts. The ruling affected the
Criminal Justice System as any instance where an officer employed lethal force against any
suspect, and as a result charges brought up on that officer, courts became the entities in solving
that particular case. Based on the facts brought out in the case, making decision in supporting the
accused officer became very difficult to the courts. For instance, in December 2016, Michael
Slager, an officer deadly shot Walter Scott in the back as he attempted to flee away was
convicted of charges of civil rights and police misconduct. He was sentenced to twenty years in
prison (Smith, 2017). Also in May, 2017, an officer Betty Shelby was found having not being
guilty of first degree manslaughter having shot Terence Crutcher fatally, an unarmed suspect in
Okla.(Sherman, 2018). What made these two cases different with one officer being convicted
and the other not? The facts involved in the cases were the determining factor.
The Systematic Effects of the Supreme Court’s ruling to the Lasting Components of the
Justice System.
Talking of impacting the Criminal Justice System still after thirty-two years since the
verdict was made; it has caused wide-system transformations. Due to the decision of the Court,
Police departments have been forced to revisit their policies and regulations regarding the force
usage to avoid any liabilities under the U.S.C, 1983( Winter, 1986).Furthermore, the ruling had
unavoidable effects on the statutes justification of states as it enforced state legislatures IN
implementing the Model Penal Code (MPC) in order to evade any probability of federal
governments getting involved in the hearings of officers that are sued for using excessive and
lethal force against the fleeing felons.
Additionally, the Court’s verdict extended the Fourth Amendment scope, Tennebaum
(1994 ) states, “In Garner, the U.S. Supreme Court pointed out for the first time that arrest might
be against the constitution due to the quantity of force utilized to achieve it. Following Garner
case, whichever individual subjected to forceful detention can protest to courts that force
employed in his detention dishonored the Fourth Amendment since the country’s aim in arresting
him or trying to stop him from fleeing is not constitutionally sufficient.” (Marshall, 1989).
Essentially, that meant that any individual detained, in case they wanted could take the
responsible officers to the court on the basis that he was not detained according to the provisions
of the constitution. On the “nutshell” the Court decision was made states that along with all the
departments of the police adjust their policies so to be in accordance with the Constitution,
particularly when it comes to use of lethal weaponry against the fleeing suspects.
The interesting part is how the Tennessee v. Garner case has continued to have systemic
effects on today’s rulings. More specifically, the decision in this particular case made almost all
States change their “use of deadly policy” policy. This was the instance of Tennessee. For
instance, as a result of the Court’s decision, twenty-three states held on to other form of the
“Common law” any-fleeing-felon rule. On the other hand, other twenty-three states, according to
the Courts, enforced more restrictive rules than the “Common Law’ any-fleeing-felon rule. The
Court could not establish precisely which rule the remaining four states employed (Smith, 1997).
Of the twenty-three states that enforced the any-fleeing-felon rule, barely Michigan had not yet
changed its “Common Law” rule. It is very important in justice system as it offers safety to
flying suspects. The Supreme Court’s decision was therefore very essential as it influenced the
Court’s ruling on the criminal justice system favoring the fleeing suspects more. It enabled the
criminal justice system to attain its objective of providing justice to the community through fair,
accountable and efficient processes of justice.
Together with the criminal justice system other laws, courts have played a significant part
in the justice process by providing a proper place in settling disputes and enforcing and testing
laws. The Supreme Court is lying on top of hierarchy of courts in the country. This ranks it
higher in the Criminal Justice System hence it sets examples for other courts. Most criminal
cases have ended up being solved in this court. Out of these cases solved in the Supreme Court,
many of them have impacted on the interpretations of cases involving criminal justice. One can
confidently say that the Tennessee v. Garner (1985) case made the criminal justice system what
it is today as it imminently changed the other subordinate courts system’s operating procedures.
Many cases have been judged based on that verdict that was made by the Supreme Court in this
specific case. It has served as an important guide to law enforcement guiding courts in similar
cases. The case therefore reinforces the idea that courts have to consider the “totality of
circumstances” In reviewing Fourth Amendment cases.
Tracing the System-wide Transformation Caused by the Case
With the many changes and amendments on the Police department and Criminal Justice
systems, many cases have been brought up to courts with plaintiff claiming the police have used
lethal force on fleeing suspects. The interpretation of the cases has varied from one case to
another across the different states, all based on the Supreme Court’s ruling. The first example is
the Graham v. Conor case(1989) that followed the standards for excessive police force put out
in the Tennessee v. Garner case. In this particular case the police work was realized and the
attempts to strike balance. An officer was only allowed to use necessary and reasonable amount
of force. In this Case, Dethorne Graham was diabetic . He then asked a friend to drive him to a
store so as to catch some orange juice. Dethorne having seen the long queue decided to leave the
store before catching the juice. He then drove away in his car. A police officer having seen
Graham leaving, and became suspicious and took him over for investigating purposes. Back up
officers handcuffed Graham, ignoring his cries that he was diabetic and was therefore
experiencing a diabetic reaction. All through this police encounter, Graham suffered multiple
injuries. The case was argued that force should only be limited to what is required to make the
suspect obey the orders from the police officers (Marshall, 1989).
In order to avoid the excessive use of force, more police departments were forced to train
their officers to defuse situations without employment of too much force. Officers providing
training services to police agencies were for the company command presence were engaged by
the states. Officers were initially skilled in thinking that they must act hastily; however, the
officers should find out ways in slowing things down and consider alternatives (Sherman, 2018).
It was argued that better decisions would lead to fewer tragedies. This case established what has
become to be referred as the ‘objectively reasonable standard’ when it stated out sensibleness of
any specific exercise of force had to be judged from the point of view of the rational police
officer on the site, instead of the 20/20 hindsight visualization.(Smith, 2017). Therefore, the
Tennessee v. Garner case was used to guide the particular outcome of this case. The decision in
the Tennessee v. Garner case reversed a Tennessee statute that had allowed officers to employ a
deadly force on any fleeing suspect-including the felons that posed no imminent threat and
danger to the officer or the community. It has enhanced the creation of the UOF policy across all
the states and the entire country. Officers using lethal force on any fleeing suspect have to be
able to articulate the probable cause that the felon posed a significant death threat or any injuries
as at the time the officer is using the force.
In Chicago, the Chicago Police department has provided officers with sufficient guidance
in understanding when and how they may employ force, or how effectively they may manage
and come up with solutions on the encounters to decrease any necessity to utilize dead force.
This is after the Justice Department started making investigations on the Chicago Police in 2015
after a series of numerous profile cases against the Chicago Police Conduct. A perfect case is the
murder of McDonald, of whom case led to a series of protests that again put on country’s
conversation of how the police officers used lethal force. A report released indicated that the
Chicago department had violated the Fourth Amendment safeguards. McDonald, who was a teen
of black culture, was fired at sixteen times by an officer as he tried to flee in October, 2014. His
murder was largely unknown upto the instance where the judge ordered the release of the video
footage that contradicted the officer’s assassination accounts. However, the officer involved Joy
Van Dyke was prosecuted for killing the teen. It was revealed that Chicago had 762 police
murders in 2016 alone (Smith, 2017).
To resolve these police misconducts and murder, the Chicago Department has now
upgraded the policies regarding the exercise of excessive force and has every police officer
provided with a camera while also making other implementations (Flanders & Welling, 2016).
This has reduced instances of police misconduct. Also, the officers breaking the rules have end
up being held accountable for their actions.
Also, in January 2017 the U.S. Justice Department came up with a deal on its arrangement to
reform the police policies in the state of Baltimore after an investigation established out that the
police arrested many civilians especially African-Americans and also employed excessively
unnecessary force against the civilians especially juveniles (Smith, 2017).
Having seen the above cases that have continued to occur after the Tennessee v. Garner
(1985) case, it is still hard to come into terms with the fact that officers still exercise dead force
on fleeing suspects despite the Supreme Court’s ruling. Over the years, various modifications
and developments on the police departments and criminal justice systems have been put into
place to prevent officers from using excessive force. In other instances we have seen officers
being brought to book as a result of their actions, with others facing a jail term of up to twenty
years in prison. This has made them responsible as it has regarded the sanctity of life. The Justice
Department has also oftenly investigated the police use of force even though not all
investigations have resulted prosecution. Of the many cases that resolved in the Supreme Court,
several have left a major and a lifelong effect on the Criminal Justice System that have in a way
affected the way police murder cases have been interpreted and ruled. The research has
explained the Tennessee v. Garner (1985) Case, inclusive of the decision made on this particular
case, and highlighted the components of Criminal Justice System that mostly affected by this
ruling. The research also provides an investigation of the policies expected to change as a result
of the legal decision made by the case. It has described the system-wide transformations that
resulted from the Supreme Court’s ruling. It has also pointed out clearly how a single court
ruling can continue to have systemic effects over the years. It has also pointed out instances over
the years where the Tennessee v. Garner (1985) have continued to be used as a guide in courts.
Generally, the paper points out that although the police officers have a job to do in criminal
justice system, they are authorized against using excessive force. These law enforcement officers
must perform their job according to the provisions of the Constitution.
Blume, J. H. (1984). Deadly Force in Memphis: Tennessee v. Garner. Retrieved from
Ferner, M. & Wing, N. (2016). Police Officer Found Guilty of Manslaughter in Shooting of
Unarmed Black Man. Retrieved from
Flanders, C. & Welling, J. C. (2016). Police Use of Deadly Force: State Statutes 30 Years after
Garner. Retrieved from
Leider, R. (2017). Taming Self-Defense: Using Deadly Force to Prevent Escapes.
Marshall, C. C. (1989, May). Representing the structure of a legal argument. In Proceedings of
the 2nd international conference on Artificial intelligence and law (pp. 121-127). ACM.
Powell Jr, L. F. (1984). Tennessee v. Garner.
Simon, J. (1985). Tennessee v. Garner: The Fleeing Felon Rule. . Louis ULJ, 30, 1259.
Sherman, L. W. (2018). Reducing Fatal Police Shootings as System Crashes: Research, Theory,
and Practice. Annual Review of Criminology, (0).
Smith, M. R. (1997). Police use of deadly force: how courts and policy-makers have misapplied
Tennessee v. Garner. Kan. JL & Pub. Pol'y, 7, 100.
Smith, M. (2017). Minnesota Officer Acquitted in Killing of Philando Castile. Retrieved from
Tennenbaum, A. N. (1994). Criminology: The Influence of the Garner Decision on Police Use of
Deadly Force. The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 85(1), 241-260. Retrieved from
Tennessee v. Garner. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved from
Walker, S., & Fridell, L. (1992). Forces of change in police policy: The impact of Tennessee v.
Garner. Am. J. Police, 11, 97.
Winter, S. L. (1986). Tennessee v. Garner and the Democratic Practice of Judicial Review. NYU
Rev. L. & Soc. Change, 14, 679.

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