Case Brief



It was around 10:45 p.m. on the 3rd of October, 1974 when Leslie Wright and Elton Hymon, police officer from Memphis Police Office, were dispatched in order to answer an inside call about prowler. After arriving, a woman claimed to have heard breaking classes in her neighborhood. This was an indication that someone in the neighborhood was breaking the door. Write radioed that they were at the scene. They witnessed whatever was happening, such as hearing of a door slum, seeing someone run from across the backyard, and hearing from the woman about what she had heard. The suspect decedent without full recognition but Hymon was able to see the face and hand of Garner. There was no sign of weapon from the suspect. Hymon imagined that Garner could have been between the age 17 and 18 and between five feet, five and five feet, seven in height. In the attempt of Garner to escape, Hymon shot him, but unfortunately he hardly survived even after being hospitalized. Hymon had decided to use deadly force to prevent Garner from escaping (TENNESSEE V. GARNER ET AL., 1985). The father of the deceased decided to bring the case to the court to seek compensations claiming that the police had used deadly force to an unarmed juvenile.


  1. Whether Hymon did right to shoot a suspect who was not armed or he has the right to shoot an unharmed suspect under the instruction from the constitution or the Tennessee statute
  2. Whether the family of Garner, in this case, his father, has the right for compensation on damages. His allegations were that this shooting was a violation of the US constitution and its Fourth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, Eighth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment (TENNESSEE V. GARNER ET AL., 1985).


Judgment for all defendants was initiated after a three-day trial. The court dismissed claims against Mayor due to lack of evidence. It then concluded that the actions of Hymon were under Tennessee statute and were constitutional. The claims of Garner’s father were declined on the basis that the father did not consider the reason for the shooting, and that the course of the shooting was under the US Constitution (TENNESSEE V. GARNER ET AL., 1985).


The court held that shooting was the only way Hymon could prevent Garner from escaping. Garner assumed the risk of being shot by escaping and attempting to jump over the fence. The court also affirmed that Hymon had taken the right decision based on the Tennessee statute. Even in light of a previous case of Monell. 600 F. 2d, at 54-55, which had come the decision of the District Court, the decision of the court in this case could not be affected. Killing a fleeing is considered “seizure” as far as the Fourth Amendment is concerned. This act would be against the constitution and is confirmed unreasonable. In contrary to this, shooting of Garner was reasonable since he knew that the police were armed but he risked being shot by escaping. Notably, even on jumping across the fence, the suspect would have fractured or died. The Fourth Amendment could have applied to the father of the deceased but given the reason behind the shooting, the Fourth Amendment does not hold to his claim (TENNESSEE V. GARNER ET AL., 1985). Again, the Tennessee statute ‘has no limitation on the use of deadly force. The statute hardly differentiates felonies of various magnitudes. This failure makes the statute void in the case of Monell. 600 F. 2d, at 54-55 and was inapplicable in this case. Given the context of the case, the court could not rule in favor of the father. 

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