Targeted Killing

Government Uses Lethal Force Against U.S. Citizen on U.S. Soil...

By Steve Vladeck
Thursday, March 14, 2013, 1:48 PM

I'm not at all happy that today's news out of upstate New York proves the point that Jack and I (and a cast of dozens) have tried to make about domestic use of lethal force, but it's worth pointing out the following facts:

  1. The target of the government's use of force, Kurt Myers, is a U.S. citizen.
  2. He was killed on U.S. soil.
  3. His killing was carried out under color of law.
  4. Given that the police stormed the bar in which Myers barricaded himself, and that he wasn't holding any hostages, there is at least a non-frivolous claim that Myers was not engaged in imminent acts of violence against U.S. persons.
  5. His estate could conceivably bring a claim for damages to the extent that the use of force was in violation of state or federal law (to be sure, such a suit would almost certainly be meritless, but it would just as certainly be cognizable).

Don't get me wrong: every part of what happened in the Mohawk Valley is a tragedy. But it's an all-too-familiar tragedy that plays itself out on an all-too-routine basis across the United States. And it proves two larger points: First, the ship has most definitely sailed on the question of whether the government can ever use lethal force against its own citizens.

Second, and more importantly, courts are routinely asked to review such uses of force after the fact, even in circumstances in which there is no reason to believe that the government acted unlawfully, just to make sure...