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SCOTUS sides with police officer, overturns $150k excessive lawsuit ruling awarded to knife-wielding woman

U.S. Supreme Court Building. Credit: Duncan Lock.

The US Supreme Court sided with an Arizona police officer on Monday, adding legal precedent to a case testing the Constitutional limits for the use of force.

Despite the dissent of two liberal justices, the Supreme Court overturned a 2016 lower court ruling that had allowed a civil rights lawsuit that sought over $150,000 in damages University of Arizona Police Department Corporal Andrew Kisela.

The plaintiff in the case, Amy Hughes, claimed Kisela used excessive force back in 2010 and had violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In an era of severe tensions between police and the civilian population concerning the use of force, the court ruled that Kisela qualified immunity protecting him from the litigation, as he  technically violated now established laws in the process.

Unsurprisingly, Justice Sonia Sotomayor  and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg both deemed Kisela’s conduct unreasonable.

“It tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent.

The case is a particularly confusing one, involving Hughes’ roommate -identified as Sharon Chadwick- and a knife.

Three UAPD officers were called to the ladies’ residence after Chadwick called and claimed Hughes was hacking at a tree with a knife and was threatening to kill Chadwick’s dog over the issue of a $20 magazine subscription.

Hughes, who had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was on medication, reportedly disobeyed police orders to drop the knife as she walked towards Chadwick.

In defense of Chadwick, Kisela opened fire, striking Hughes.  Kisela was separated from the two by a chainlink fence.

According to Reuters, Kisela told investigators he saw Hughes raise her knife, but the other officers said they did not.

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