Scott v. Harris: Death Knell for Deadly Force Policies and Garner Jury Instructions?

35 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2008

See all articles by Karen Blum

Karen Blum

Suffolk University Law School


In response to the kind invitation of the Syracuse Law Review, I have put together some brief comments and thoughts about the Supreme Court's recent decision in Scott v. Harris, 127 S.Ct. 1769 (2007). While many criticisms might be leveled at the opinion, this piece raises concerns about the Court's refusal to accord special consideration to the use of deadly force, and the implications such refusal may have for both deadly force policies adopted by law enforcement agencies throughout the country and deadly force jury instructions currently required or given as a matter of discretion in federal trial courts. Removing "deadly force" from a special category of force that triggers certain preconditions will encourage police agencies to rewrite policies that currently treat deadly force as different, placing clear restraints on its use. Futhermore, a one-size-fits-all use of force standard will discourage judges from exercising discretion to give "deadly force" instructions to a jury, will make such instructions unnecessary where now required, and will no doubt impact jury determinations in excessive force cases.

Keywords: Scott v. Harris

Suggested Citation

Blum, Karen, Scott v. Harris: Death Knell for Deadly Force Policies and Garner Jury Instructions?. Syracuse Law Review, Vol. 58, p. 45, 2007, Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 08-06, Available at SSRN:

Karen Blum (Contact Author)

Suffolk University Law School ( email )

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