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Supreme Court rules excessive force claims must be decided on nature of force

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] in Wilkins v. Gaddy [docket] that excessive force claims must be decided based on the nature of the force rather than the extent of the injury. The district court had dismissed a prisoner's excessive force claim after determining that his injuries were "de minimis." The Supreme Court found that the lower court had incorrectly applied the standard articulated in Hudson v. McMillian [opinion text], which held that "the use of excessive physical force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment [even] when the inmate does not suffer serious injury." The court reversed the decision below and remanded for further proceedings. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, arguing that Hudson was wrongly decided.

Also Monday, the court ruled [opinion, PDF] in Thaler v. Haynes [docket] that there is no precedent requiring a judge to have personally observed a prospective juror rejected for demeanor when ruling on an objection to a peremptory challenge. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had ruled that under Baston v. Kentucky [opinion text], the judge must have personally observed the prospective juror's behavior in order to determine whether he was rejected for demeanor or because of race. The Supreme Court reversed the decision below, finding that the appeals court had read too much into Baston.

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