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Police Chase Ethics Reach Supreme Court

Dashboard video of a police chase in Coweta County, Ga. in 2001.
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Video of a police chase that left a Georgia teenager paralyzed — the "scariest chase I've seen since 'The French Connection,"' one Supreme Court justice said — played a key role Monday in arguments over the actions of a sheriff's deputy.

A camera in the dashboard of the police cruiser that rammed Victor Harris's black Cadillac captured the sickening moment when Harris lost control and veered off the road and down an embankment.

Harris sued former Coweta County Sheriff's deputy Timothy Scott, accusing the deputy of violating his civil rights. The court is deciding whether the lawsuit can proceed in its first case in 20 years on police use of deadly force to stop fleeing suspects.

Several justices showed a close interest in the chase that preceded the crash, with an eye toward justifying Scott's action as reasonable to prevent injury to other drivers and pedestrians.

Justice Antonin Scalia referred to "The French Connection," the 1971 Oscar-winning movie with one of Hollywood's classic police pursuits. "It is frightening," he said of the Georgia video.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Harris was endangering lives by fleeing from the police. "Anyone who has watched that tape has got to come to that conclusion, looking at the road and the way that this car was swerving, and the cars coming in the opposite direction. This was a situation fraught with danger," she said.