Shooting as She Drove Away: RT4 Files Amicus Brief in Torres v. Madrid

Stock Photo from Marco Verch on Flickr

In 2014, two New Mexico state police officers were on their way to serve an arrest warrant at an apartment building when they saw Roxanne Torres—not the person they were serving it to—outside her vehicle and approached her. Here’s what happened next, per Ballotpedia:

The officers approached Torres’ vehicle; Torres entered her vehicle, perceived the officers to be carjackers, and drove the car forward. The officers shot her twice. Torres drove from the scene and was treated at a hospital for her injuries. Torres was arrested and pleaded no contest to three crimes related to the event. Torres filed a complaint against the officers in federal district court claiming excessive force. The district court ruled that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity and that there had been no seizure since Torres left the scene. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. Torres filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.

Defending the act of shooting at someone fleeing from them–who did not know they were police and they were not even there to arrest–as a rightful attempt at “seizure”–brings this case under our purview.

Last month, Restore the 4th officially filed an amicus brief for the Supreme Court in this case, Torres v. Madrid (19-292).

We recommend reading the brief in full, but it comes down to debunking the bizarre argument that a police officer shooting at someone does not constitute an attempt to arrest them–and is in fact a less serious act–even if they’re running away.

The premise that physically attempting to detain someone constitutes an attempt to arrest them, and therefore is limited by all the related rules and protections (including those laid down by the Fourth Amendment) is a core legal precedent that it would be dangerous to disrupt. That is in addition to the injustice it would be for Ms. Torres.

We hope the Supreme Court makes the right ruling.

Stay updated on the fight for the Fourth Amendment. Follow us on Twitter @Restore_the4th.

DID YOU GET THE MEMO?

You’ve probably seen the buzz around #ReleaseTheMemo on social and other media. But perhaps you found it hard to follow from a privacy advocate’s point of view.

The House Intelligence Committee in Congress agreed to share a document that allegedly described abuses of FISA surveillance, pending the president’s approval. 

Now that it’s finally been released, let’s take a look if it lived up to the hype…

The predictions:

  • It would describe political surveillance, conducted with the knowledge of President Obama, of people involved in the Trump campaign
  • It would show the bias inherent in the Mueller investigation of President Trump
  • It would vastly misrepresent the underlying intelligence reports
  • It would be unprecedented to release to the public reports of such a highly classified nature, potentially compromising national security
  • It would provide substantial evidence for the need of greater oversight of FISA surveillance

The precedents:

The realities:

  • Its main point is that the FBI failed to disclose bias by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele against Trump as part of its application for a FISA warrant; But it was already well-known that Steele’s firm received payment from Democrats, that he was vehemently opposed to Trump’s election, and that his dossier constituted opposition research
  • It doesn’t lessen any suspicion of collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, because that has been shown from other sources than the Steele dossier
  • Perhaps the FBI should have caveated better on the FISA application as to Steele’s motivations.
  • However, the memo doesn’t seem to substantively reveal improper political surveillance by the FBI motivated by political animus against Trump
  • From our standpoint, the memo seems to have been released as a parry in the knife fight of partisan struggles; it doesn’t reveal material relevant to Restore the Fourth’s mission
  • Suggestions of the memo compromising national security seem to be overblown; the memo could easily have been part of a public discussion prior to this, and the fact that it wasn’t suggests that our system vastly overclassifies information, and is reluctant to let the public know about things we’re in fact fully capable of understanding.