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Violations of a Suspect's Civil Rights by Police

You are a federal prosecutor in Snookton, Saltwater County, Florida, faced with a difficult problem involving misconduct of law enforcement officers leading to the accidental death of a suspect. The officers arrested a suspected child pornographer at his office on the northern end of Snookton; instead of taking him to the Saltwater County Jail, the suspect was transported in handcuffs and leg irons to the warehouse docks on the southern end of Snookton. It appears from the reports that the officers were attempting to interrogate the suspect in hopes of learning the whereabouts of children who were exploited in his pornography. Their goal was to find and protect the children. Their tactics, however, were totally illegal. Based upon some motion picture these officers had seen, they believed an interrogation in the water along the wharf would create a panic in the suspect who would fear drowning. Somehow, the suspect fell off the dock and into the water. The water around the wharf at that location was so deep that the officers were unable to recover the suspect before he drowned.

The state district attorney and the attorney general prosecuted the three officers for the involuntary manslaughter of the suspect, but the local jury was not sympathetic to the death of the child pornographer and found the officers "not guilty" of all homicide charges. The deceased's family and friends now want you to do something under federal law to obtain justice for the misconduct of the officers. It appears that an attorney for the deceased's family will continue to keep this case in front of the media because he wants to file a civil suit for wrongful death. Even the local mayor has written a letter because of his concern about the bad light that this case has placed upon his police department, and he has asked for your help in dealing with the problem. Write a memo in which you examine the legal and constitutional issues involved. Your memo should include the following issues:

1. Identify and explain the constitutional issues involved in this case.

2. What is double jeopardy and would it prevent the federal courts from pursuing this case?

3. Identify the legal options in a federal criminal case.

4. What potential liability do the officers and the police department face, if any, as a result of a successful federal prosecution?

5. Explain what course of action you think should be followed, supporting your argument with research.

Solution Preview

1. Identify and explain the constitutional issues involved in this case.

Several constitutional issues exist in this case beginning with the depriving of the suspect's due process rights by the police officers, which is a violation of his 5th amendment rights, the violation of his civil rights by the interrogation tactics used by the police that resulted in his death. The civil rights violation is the most important area to focus on in this case.

2. What is double jeopardy and would it prevent the federal courts from pursuing this case?

Double jeopardy is the prevention of a citizen being tried twice for the same crime. In this case, if a jury acquitted the officers, then trying them in federal court for murder or manslaughter would constitute double jeopardy. Therefore, it would prevent the federal ...

Solution Summary

The violations of a suspect's civil rights by police are examined.

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