Qualified Immunity

Court Rules Police Officer Who Shot 10-Year-Old Is Protected by Qualified Immunity

"No reasonable officer would engage in such recklessness," complains dissenting judge.

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A woman whose 10-year-old child was shot by a police officer will receive no compensation for her child's medical bills after a federal court ruled last week in Corbitt v. Vickers that the officer was protected by qualified immunity.

In 2014 a criminal suspect named Christopher Barnett entered Amy Corbitt's front yard where a group of children were also playing. The police soon followed in pursuit of Barnett. The officers held Barnett and the children at gunpoint, ordering them all to get on the ground. All complied, including Barnett, who was apprehended without incident.

But Bruce, the Corbitt family dog, sauntered over to Coffee County, Georgia, Deputy Sheriff Matthew Vickers, who attempted to shoot the animal, regardless of the fact that "no one appeared threatened by [Bruce]," as the 11th Circuit put it. Vickers missed. The dog briefly retreated, then reappeared, prompting Vickers to shoot at the animal once more. Vickers missed the dog again, but this time he hit Corbitt's 10-year-old child in the back of the knee. That child was lying on the ground a mere 18 inches from Vickers, according to court documents.

The child, referred to as "SDC" throughout the legal proceedings, has since "suffered severe pain and mental trauma," according to the 11th Circuit, and has required ongoing care from an orthopedic surgeon.

In response to the shooting of her child, Amy Corbitt filed a $2,000,000 suit for special and compensatory damages. Vickers countered with a motion to dismiss, which argued "that [Vickers] was entitled to qualified immunity because case law had not staked out a 'bright line' indicating that the act of firing at the dog and unintentionally shooting SDC was unlawful."

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia agreed with Corbitt, holding in 2017 that Deputy Sheriff Vickers' use of force violated the child's Fourth Amendment rights.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit reversed that judgment last week, holding that Vickers deserved qualified immunity because "Corbitt failed to present us with any materially similar case from the United States Supreme Court, this Court, or the Supreme Court of Georgia that would have given Vickers fair warning that his particular conduct violated the Fourth Amendment." In other words, because there was no earlier case on the books declaring this particular type of conduct to be clearly unconstitutional, the officer received qualified immunity.

Furthermore, according to the 11th Circuit, one relevant Supreme Court precedent, Brower v. County of Inyo (1989), directly cut in favor of the officer. According to Brower, "a Fourth Amendment violation depends upon intentional action on the part of the officer." In short, according to the 11th Circuit's application of Brower, because Vickers meant to shoot the dog—not the child—his actions should be covered by qualified immunity.

The qualified immunity doctrine centers on the idea of reasonableness. Would a reasonable police officer have known that he was violating a constitutional right? That is essentially the litmus test.

Writing in dissent, 11th Circuit Judge Charles Wilson insisted that Vickers clearly deserved to flunk that test in this case. "Facing no apparent threat, Officer Vickers chose to fire his lethal weapon in the direction of these children," Wilson wrote. "No reasonable officer would engage in such recklessness and no reasonable officer would think such recklessness was lawful. Therefore, Wilson concluded, "I agree with the district court that Officer Vickers should not be entitled to qualified immunity."

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  1. The dog briefly retreated, then reappeared, prompting Vickers to shoot at the animal once more. Vickers missed the dog again, but this time he hit Corbitt’s 10-year-old child in the back of the knee. That child was lying on the ground a mere 18 inches from Vickers, according to court documents.

    Serves him right for being outside his home unaccompanied by an adult.

    1. The kids were accompanied by an adult. He had already been cuffed by the police and had a gun in his back despite having nothing to do with the person the police were pursuing.

      1. This was a classic example of poor parenting. If the kid had been raised properly this never would’ve happened.

        1. Officer Vickers is a little old to still be referred to as a ‘kid’.

          1. He’s a little irresponsible to still be on the force especially as his reckless driving has already cost another cop his life. The claim was that some magical disappearing deer ran in front of his speeding cruiser and he slammed into a guardrail ejecting both himself and jail Sgt. Smith over a decade ago. How many people will this reckless jerk be allowed to carry on? At least they promoted him to detective, wait, WTF?
            https://www.coffeecountysheriffsoffice.net/community

          2. Pig is his name.

    2. Police forces need to be eliminated. Cops solve almost zero crimes, the prevent almost zero crimes, making them a pox on both society and law-abiding individuals. Cops illegal actions will continue to get worse and worse until we either eliminate them (fire them permanently) or pass a law over-ruling courts that try to get these crooked cops off the payroll.

      1. This is why I cheer when the die. The odds are they deserve it.

      2. 50% of people who call them to their homes for help go to jail. They kill dogs anytime they can almost like its a sport. No knock raids where someone usually winds up dead for a small marijuana bust and the travesties go on. I personally have no need for these cretins as I can protect myself. Oh and if you didn’t know case law says they do not have to protect you from harms way! So,whats their use?

    3. Serves him right for being outside his home unaccompanied by an adult.

      His adventuring days are over, that’s for sure.

  2. A cop has just got to get his shots in, its the job

  3. Weird how a completely made-up judicial doctrine survives so many challenges to it.

    1. The easy explanation is that ignorance is no excuse. Clearly it is the judges who are ignorant.

    2. The thing is that it makes sense in marginal cases. In unprecedented cases. If an officer chances to see something illegal while in the middle of chasing someone for unrelated offenses, can he use that as probable cause for a warrant? Yes? No? Until a judge rules, who knows? However, if he guesses wrongly, does it make sense for the court to punish him for such an action? Obviously not, thus the creation of qualified immunity.

      However, it’s been taken to such extremes that it’s a mockery of a good idea. In this case, anyone other than an officer would have been charged with reckless endangerment and probably aggravated assault as well. This is in addition to attempting to kill the victim’s dog for no apparent reason. To claim that this is in any way a marginal case is absurd.

  4. “No reasonable officer would engage in such recklessness and no reasonable officer would think such recklessness was lawful.”

    I beg to differ. Here we have just such an officer engaging in just such an action – and he’s getting off scot-free. What the fuck kind of retarded officer would take this as some sort of message that this sort of thing is frowned upon and liable to get him into trouble? It’s perfectly reasonable for police officers to believe they are above the law.

    1. Ding! You win!

    2. [[ It’s perfectly reasonable for police officers to believe they are above the law. ]]

      Excellent point.

      This shit is what taught me to hate the state.

  5. Ok but is the city not liable? Isn’t that a separate question?

  6. When your argument is that you don’t know that incompetently firing your weapon at a non present danger and wounding a kid in a surrender position is wrong, you are admitting that you are too ignorant and unskilled to be trusted with law enforcement authority.

    1. “…you are admitting that you are too ignorant and unskilled to be trusted with law enforcement authority.”

      And by accepting that bullshit excuse, the Eleventh Circuit is admitting that they are too ignorant and unskilled to be trusted with judicial authority.

      1. Have you seen the movie “Deliverance”? This isn’t so different.

    2. “you are admitting that you are too ignorant and unskilled to be trusted with law enforcement authority.”

      Well, not without more training, anyway. And overtime. Lots of overtime.

  7. >>U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit

    requires immediate summary replacement.

  8. So if I have this right, no officer will face punishment unless another officer, in the exact same circumstance, has been found guilty before? And it looks like exact means just that. So another cop went down for shooting a kid? Too bad; that time there was no dog, so it is different. That time there were only two kids on the ground, so it is different.
    So how do you convict the first one?
    Time for a constitutional amendment. quote:
    “There is no such thing as qualified immunity at any time in any place for any reason. All police personnel, at all levels of government, are subject to the same laws as the rest of the populace.”

    1. It does seem to be a logically impossible hurdle to overcome. If the courts will consider something illegal unless a previous case was illegal seems a logical dilemma.

      Though one would think that recklessly shooting someone already detained should be covered by previous case law and statutory law.

    2. All police personnel, and all government employees at all levels of government and all elected officials are subject to the same laws as the rest of the populace.”

      1. “But all offenses committed by public employees and officials will be raised one full step due to the trust placed in them.”

        Line a few of these faggots up on Death Row.

    3. It is that, and worse.
      It has been observed by judges and legal pundits that by the current application of qualified immunity, not only would there need to be a precedent case with the exact same circumstances, but indeed there never could be a case with the same circumstances that had been adjudicated, because qualified immunity would prevent any case from ever getting that far to even make it precedent.
      In such way, the rendition of qualified immunity that is being used by the courts prevent the very thing that would overcome QI. As such QI undoes the whole statute from inception or any practical use.

      This one rule, completely judge created and nowhere in the statute, and a complete gift out of whole cloth to the government, is now the full and controlling short-circuiting standard for all civil rights actions. It has become the tail that wags the dog.
      I speak from experience, having filed many civil rights actions and bumping into this labyrinthine standard that allows wiggle room to dismiss almost every civil rights claim. Even when you win, you lose. It has basically abolished the whole statute as having any practical use or importance.
      I hope something will be done about it, the Congress has to shore up the statute to undo the court created exception that were never in the statute to begin with.

  9. THIS…This is NOT the purpose of Qualified Immunity.

    1. Shooting children and dogs seems like the primary purpose of qualified immunity these days. Cops love shooting dogs and kids.

  10. In response to the shooting of her child, Amy Corbitt filed a $2,000,000 suit for special and compensatory damages. Vickers countered with a motion to dismiss, which argued “that [Vickers] was entitled to qualified immunity because case law had not staked out a ‘bright line’ indicating that the act of firing at the dog and unintentionally shooting SDC was unlawful.”

    Wait a minute… no one suggested what the officer did was “unlawful”, unless maybe Corbitt’s lawsuit specified that. I presume this is a civil claim based around negligence or some such standard fare. This is a weird interpretation of “qualified immunity”.

    1. “Corbitt failed to present us with any materially similar case from the United States Supreme Court, this Court, or the Supreme Court of Georgia that would have given Vickers fair warning that his particular conduct violated the Fourth Amendment.” In other words, because there was no earlier case on the books declaring this particular type of conduct to be clearly unconstitutional, the officer received qualified immunity.

      Ok, maybe I should have read the whole article. So maybe Corbitt’s lawyer filed the wrong kind of lawsuit? I mean, people get compensation from cop misconduct all the time, clearly, something is making this particular case special.

    2. The very fact that the suit was filed means that Corbitt was suggesting that Vickers’ behavior was unlawful. I think you are confusing unlawful with illegal. To put it simply:
      Illegal = criminal conduct.
      Unlawful = behavior for which you can get sued or criminal conduct.
      Everything that is illegal is also unlawful, but not everything that is unlawful is illegal.

  11. Our judges are truly NUTS. We need to get the courts under control.

    1. Honestly? I think many of them are afraid. Do you want to be the judge that cost the cop such-and-such? Every cop in the state will know your face, your car, your kids, your spouse and will punish you for not supporting them. I think that, since cops has SO much power, many judges are afraid to take it away from them.

  12. That’s a cop that needs to go to prison. Mark my words, this shit will go on until someone snaps and starts taking out these kind of rogue cops who think they are above the law. Of course that will get judges even more teary eyed when handing out “qualified” immunity when cops start shooting at anyone and everyone even more than they do now if that’s possible.

    1. I hope so. Dead cops will please me.

    2. Nathan Hale must be a myth. Time to make testosterone an over the counter product. Four out of 5 transgenders approve.

  13. “case law had not staked out a ‘bright line’ indicating that the act of firing at the dog and unintentionally shooting SDC was unlawful.”

    WTF, it sounds like its time to put the qualified immunity doctrine into a w_________r.

    1. Water cooler? Wagon train? West Virginer?

      1. Woodchipper.

      2. Wagon train? That doesn’t even fit!

  14. So, WTF is it with cops shooting dogs? What kind of sadist gets off on killing someone’s pet? And, if some asshole shot my kid because he missed my dog, I’d shoot him. Dead. And I wouldn’t miss.

    1. The same kind who gets off on all the other evil shit cops do.

    2. “And, if some asshole shot my kid because he missed my dog, I’d shoot him. Dead. And I wouldn’t miss.”

      It would appear them assholes have an excellent track record of missing the family members of bona fide adherents of that mindset.

      Prolly worthy of a lucrative gubmint study. Remember to emphasis that it could lead to military and population control applications in the proposal to secure funding.

    3. A sadistic, psychotic, steroid fueled, raging Robocop asshole!

  15. Did they follow up and actually shoot the dog?

  16. How is the shooting a 4th Amendment issue? It looks like a negligent shooting to me.

  17. The Lord is a God who avenges.
    O God who avenges, shine forth.
    Rise up, Judge of the earth;
    pay back to the proud what they deserve.
    How long, Lord, will the wicked,
    how long will the wicked be jubilant?
    They pour out arrogant words;
    all the evildoers are full of boasting.
    They crush your people, Lord;
    they oppress your inheritance.
    They slay the widow and the foreigner;
    they murder the fatherless.
    They say, “The Lord does not see;
    the God of Jacob takes no notice.”
    Take notice, you senseless ones among the people;
    you fools, when will you become wise?
    Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?
    Does he who formed the eye not see?
    Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
    Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge?
    The Lord knows all human plans;
    he knows that they are futile.

    Judgment will again be founded on righteousness,
    and all the upright in heart will follow it.
    Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
    Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?

    Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—
    a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
    The wicked band together against the righteous
    and condemn the innocent to death.
    But the Lord has become my fortress,
    and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.
    He will repay them for their sins
    and destroy them for their wickedness;
    the Lord our God will destroy them.
    (Most of Psalm 94)

  18. I believe in law and order. I believe in the social stability provided by strong rules and enforcement.

    But cops lost me a long time ago with their cunty roid-rage sadistic bullshit, and I’d rather uncle Cletis with a shotgun help me out of any sticky situation than any fat donut-munching cunt with a badge.

  19. I wonder how a case regarding the taking/seizure of the dog would have worked. Surely killing the dog would have counted as a seizure of property.

  20. If there is no justice in the courts, then it has to come from some other way. This kind of shite has be allowed to continue for far too long.

  21. The easy explanation is that ignorance is no excuse. Clearly it is the judges who are ignorant.

  22. I am assuming the dog was within a few feet of the officer. Regardless of the legality of the whole thing, for someone supposedly “trained” to carry a firearm in public to miss two shots at close distance is inexcusable.

    Also, one of the fundamentals of firearm safety is to know your target and what’s behind it. To discharge a firearm in the presence of children with the perp already subdued is wrong on multiple levels.

  23. I know I will get flack for this, but it has to be said. How many times are we told that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is for a good guy to have a gun. Well we have a good guy here, who should have been trained in the operation of a gun, who should be able to hits his target, and what does he do? He shoots and hits a kid lying on the ground!

    1. No flack except this is not an instance of a “good guy with a gun”. This is most definitely a case of a “bad guy with a gun”. Just so happens he also has a badge.

  24. So much for “checks & balances”. “Limited” govt. is an oxymoron, because self-limiting govt. is a fantasy, like “authority” based on a parchment a few wrote words on, a few declared it “the law of the land” and the people, slowly over 2 centuries, now worship as god.
    I recognize no authority over me, morally, only by the threat of brute force, a threat held to be sacred by the self-enslaving majority. Why? Could it be a myth drummed into their heads all thru enforced incarcerations in govt. indoctrination centers (public school)?

  25. It has been observed by judges and legal pundits that by the current application of qualified immunity, not only would there need to be a precedent case with the exact same circumstances, but indeed there never could be a case with the same circumstances that had been adjudicated, because qualified immunity would prevent any case from ever getting that far to even make it precedent.
    In such way, the rendition of qualified immunity that is being used by the courts prevent the very thing that would overcome QI. As such QI undoes the whole statute from inception or any practical use.

    This one rule, completely judge created and nowhere in the statute, and a complete gift out of whole cloth to the government, is now the full and controlling short-circuiting standard for all civil rights actions. It has become the tail that wags the dog.
    I speak from experience, having filed many civil rights actions and bumping into this labyrinthine standard that allows wiggle room to dismiss almost every civil rights claim. Even when you win, you lose. It has basically abolished the whole statute as having any practical use or importance.
    I hope something will be done about it, the Congress has to shore up the statute to undo the court created exception that were never in the statute to begin with.

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  28. Plainly the judges wanted to rule for the officer. They keep saying bystander, once seized you are under the police and they are required to take care of you. Kid stopped being a bystander long before getting shot. therefore this bystander case law can not apply to him. His is not a by stander. He was their duty to protect.
    Appeal en blanc ASAP. And get a better appeal lawyer, you can appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. The issue is confused by officer’s lawyer [surprise]. The child was under police protection, he was seized.
    The issue is protection of seized person and risking injury to seized person. combined with how stupid is stupid enough. 1st rule of NRA gun use is know your target and what is behind your target. Officer shot at a dog without reason, with a gun, when children were in range and in target zone. Failure of lawyers to do /present evidence of officers training and qualifications to court. He misses a dog at 2 feet and shoots a kid, on the ground who is seized and is therefore under police protection from harm. That goes to evidence of officers competence. Lawyers flat missed a boat on that subject.
    Lawyer failed to fence in appeal court with cases and logic, they escaped and ruled for officer. Appeal is 4th, 14th and 6th due process. This is to early to dismiss as pointed out, jury issue of officers conduct has not been done. The court can not state a reasonable act of officer absent jury. Their job is the law, applying facts. NOT applying law without facts. As this case has nation implications, appeal en blanc now.
    In a reporting note, why is not officer and his county and boss named. I know 11th Circuit is south east USA. Most people do not. Name ’em, shame ’em you do the stupid, let people know who did it.

  29. […] at a dog, missing, and shooting a nearby child in the process was not protected, they found his actions were not unreasonable and he didn’t have to pay the child’s family […]

  30. Shoot my kid and you’re going to the morgue, badge or no badge…

    1. BUT WAIT!!! He has SPECIAL rights! He wears a shiny BADGE making him a DOUBLE O agent allowed to rob, kill and maim the public with “qualified immunity”! All I can say is that I AGREE with your 100%!

  31. […] to the family and had wandered onto their property. A court recently ruled that the officer is protected by qualified immunity, so the family will receive no compensation for medical […]

  32. It seems to me that much of what the law does is redirect the natural desire for justice into the public sphere (i.e., the courts and the law) where it can be better controlled through due process. A vast majority of people will agree to this outsourcing if the law is seen as impartial. However, if the courts and the law refuse to bring justice to a select group of people, then the courts and the government should not be surprised when citizens start to take these matters back where justice is clearly not being impartially applied to a protected class.

  33. Sure glad it wasn’t my kid. His qualified immunity would be tested after that decision down the road from about 100 yards. And THAT my friends is what the 2nd amendment is for. SHOOTING TYRANTS.

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