The various arms and appendages of law while towing the practical manifestations of their powers do sometimes give way to special situations that alter and remold the conscience of a society and bring them under direct and enhanced observation and scrutiny of the masses and the intelligentsia. Infact such instances happen to be the important turning points in the legal and judicial history of any nation and do many a times lead to the evolution of the existing statutory provisions in the light of the current and emerging changes in the society. US Supreme Court case Tennessee vs. Garner is one such thought provoking event in the legal history of the US that strikingly challenged the existing statutory provisions pertaining to the use of force by the law enforcement agencies and called for reinterpretation and reshaping of this earlier taken for granted aspect of the policing in the US.
October 3, 1974 was one other usual day in the life of the Memphis Police Officers Leslie Wright and Eton Hymon, when they were ordered to respond to a "prowler inside call". Both the officers promptly arrived on the scene of crime and after receiving relevant feedback from the neighbors, proceeded to scan the house being targeted. Hymon noticed a person running across the backyard and with the aid of his flashlight, was reasonably able to discern that the suspect, Edward Garner was an unarmed teenager of slight built (Findlaw, 2008). When Garner tried to climb over a fence, Hymon shot him in the back of his head to prevent him from escaping from the scene of crime (Findlaw, 2008). Later on a paltry ten dollars and a ring stolen from the house being scanned was found on the body of the suspect.
Hymon acted in direct exercise of the authority given by a Tennessee statute to its police officers, sanctioning a deadly use of force so as to apprehend a fleeing suspect (Findlaw, 2008). The father of the deceased teenager filed a suit in the Federal District Court, to seek damages for the death and violation of his son's constitutional rights (Findlaw, 2008). The District Court upheld the constitutional credentials of the given statute and declared the officer's actions to be legal and valid (Findlaw, 2008). However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, while responding to an appeal by the appellee-respondent, reversed, stating that the use of force against a fleeing suspect in pursuance of the requirements of the Fourth Amendment is subject to be qualified in the light of the criteria of reasonableness (Findlaw, 2008).
The basic issue that this case brings to fore is the ascertaining of the constitutionality of the deadly use of force by the law enforcement agencies against an unarmed, fleeing suspect (Findlaw, 2008). It questions the gross generalization of the provisions pertaining to the use of force by the law enforcement agencies against the relatively innocuous suspects who try to flee. Should the nature or proportion of force used by a police team against an escaping terrorist be same as that used against a harmless teenager, who attempts to escape from the scene of some petty crime This case highlights the human rights of the fleeing suspects and pragmatically checks the unrestrained use of force by t