EXCESSIVE FORCE OR SPEEDER’S TOUGH LUCK?
The Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Monday in a high-speed police chase that left a 19-year-old driver paralyzed.In March 2001, a police cruiser rammed a black Cadillac from behind as the vehicles raced along a wet, two-land road in Coweta County south of Atlanta at about 90 miles an hour. The driver - Victor Harris - lost control and ended up at the bottom of an embankment.Harris was being chased by police because he had been speeding. He later said he was too frightened to stop.Coweta County sheriff's Deputy Timothy Scott said he wanted to end the chase before other drivers or pedestrians were hurt.Harris sued Scott for violating his civil rights. The deputy wants the justices to conclude that his actions, captured on the dashboard camera of his car, were reasonable and dismiss the lawsuit.The case puts the court in the middle of a national debate over high-speed chases. A group of Georgia police chiefs says in court papers that more 350 people died each year on average from 1994 to 2004 because of police chases.It also is the first in more than 20 years in which the court will consider constitutional limits on police use of deadly force to stop fleeing suspects. Courts define deadly force as creating a substantial risk of death or serious injury.----A case involving a high-speed chase in Coweta and Fayette counties that left a suspect paralyzed is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.Lawyers for 25-year-old Victor Harris are asking for the right to sue a former Coweta County police officer and the Coweta County Sheriff's Department.It was late at night on March 29, 2001. A Coweta County police officer attempted to stop then-19-year-old Victor Harris for speeding.Harris took off in his Cadillac.After more than five minutes at a high rate of speed, one of the officers involved in the chase attempted to stop Harris by ramming his vehicle on Highway 74. Harris lost control and crashed. "My client is 25, he's a paraplegic from the neck down, he gets up and goes to work every morning just like the rest of us, he uses a computer with his neck; he operates it using his mouth," said attorney Craig Jones.Two federal courts ruled Harris could sue Officer Timothy Scott and Coweta County because the officer's use of force was not reasonable.The Supreme Court will hear arguments on both sides on Monday. Jones said its ruling could have far ranging impact."If the court says yes you can use deadly force against anyone who drives unsafely, there will be nothing to stop police from shooting anyone who's violating traffic laws, and that would be a very scary country to live in," Jones said.Jones said Harris sped away from police because he panicked, not because he had committed a crime.He said Harris' medical care will cost an estimated $6 million throughout his lifetime.The attorney for the police officer involved in the chase was not available for comment on Thursday, but hopes to have a comment on Friday.