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Graham v. Connor

Supreme Court of the United States

February 21, 1989, Argued ; May 15, 1989, Decided

No. 87-6571

Opinion

 [*388]   [***450]   [**1867]  CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

 This case requires us to decide what constitutional standard governs ] a free citizen's claim that law enforcement officials used excessive force in the course of making an arrest, investigatory stop, or other "seizure" of his person. We hold that such claims are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment's "objective reasonableness"  [**1868]  standard, rather than under a substantive due process standard.

 In this action under 42 U. S. C. § 1983, petitioner Dethorne Graham seeks to recover damages for injuries allegedly sustained when law enforcement officers used physical force against him during the course of an investigatory stop. Because the case comes to us from a decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the entry of a directed verdict for respondents, we take the evidence hereafter noted in the light most favorable to petitioner. On November 12, 1984, Graham, a diabetic, felt the onset of an insulin reaction. He asked a friend, William Berry, to drive him to a nearby convenience [****7]  store so he could purchase some orange juice to counteract the reaction. Berry agreed, but when Graham entered the store, he saw a number of people ahead of him in the checkout  [*389]  line. Concerned about the delay, he hurried out of the store and asked Berry to drive him to a friend's house instead.

Respondent Connor, an officer of the Charlotte, North Carolina, Police Department, saw Graham hastily enter and leave the store. The officer became suspicious that something was amiss and followed Berry's car. About one-half mile from the store, he made an investigative stop. Although Berry told Connor that Graham was simply suffering from a "sugar reaction," the officer ordered  [***451]  Berry and Graham to wait while he found out what, if anything, had happened at the convenience store. When Officer Connor returned to his patrol car to call for backup assistance, Graham got out of the car, ran around it twice, and finally sat down on the curb, where he passed out briefly.

In the ensuing confusion, a number of other Charlotte police officers arrived on the scene in response to Officer Connor's request for backup. One of the officers rolled Graham over on the sidewalk and cuffed [****8]  his hands tightly behind his back, ignoring Berry's pleas to get him some sugar. Another officer said: "I've seen a lot of people with sugar diabetes that never acted like this. Ain't nothing wrong with the M. F. but drunk. Lock the S. B. up." App. 42. Several officers then lifted Graham up from behind, carried him over to Berry's car, and placed him face down on its hood. Regaining consciousness, Graham asked the officers to check in his wallet for a diabetic decal that he carried. In response, one of the officers told him to "shut up" and shoved his face down against the hood of the car. Four officers grabbed Graham and threw him headfirst into the police car. A friend of Graham's brought some orange juice to the car, but the officers refused to let him have it. Finally, Officer Connor received a report that Graham had done nothing wrong at the convenience store, and the officers drove him home and released him.

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490 U.S. 386 *; 109 S. Ct. 1865 **; 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 ***; 1989 U.S. LEXIS 2467 ****; 57 U.S.L.W. 4513

GRAHAM v. CONNOR ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition:  827 F. 2d 945, vacated and remanded.

CORE TERMS

seizure, arrest, investigatory, sadistically, maliciously

Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Section 1983 Actions, Scope, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Search & Seizure, Scope of Protection, Criminal Law & Procedure, Commencement of Criminal Proceedings, Arrests, Reasonable Force, General Overview, Substantive Due Process, Obstruction of Administration of Justice, Resisting Arrest, Elements, Probable Cause, Search Warrants, Execution of Warrants, Warrants, Probable Cause