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MURPHY, v. WHEATON

September 20, 1974

JOHNNY MURPHY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TRAVIS WHEATON ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Will, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION

The plaintiff, an inmate at the Illinois State Penitentiary, Joliet, brings this action for declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 1985(3). This court's jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3). The plaintiff's claims for relief are based upon the following allegations set out in his complaint.

Beginning September 6, 1973, the plaintiff was confined to his cell twenty-four hours daily for a period of 187 days during which entire time he was allowed only three showers, no outdoor exercise, no shaves, no haircuts and no access to the prison's educational programs. This confinement followed a riot on September 6 in which nine prison guards were tied, blindfolded, and held as hostages in cell-house B by inmates. During the incident, the hostages were locked in several cells while the cell doors of over 300 inmates were unlocked and the inmates freed, allowing them to wander around the prison premises. On the evening of September 6, the hostages were freed and the inmates restored to their respective cells. Prison officials immediately instituted a general lock-up.

On December 2, 1973, plaintiff, Johnny Murphy, was released from his cell for the first time since the initiation of the lock-up to appear before the Disciplinary Committee consisting of three prison officials. He was informed that he had been identified as a member of the B-House revolt and that he had been seen carrying weapons on that day. The plaintiff requested and was denied the opportunity to question the accusing officers and to call witnesses to testify on his behalf. The Disciplinary Committee prescribed fifteen days of isolation, already served beginning September 6, as punishment for plaintiff's activities.

Murphy was transferred from the Disciplinary Committee to the Assignment Committee where he was assigned to Segregation without being afforded the opportunity to call witnesses and to question his accusers. He remained in segregation for 100 days (December 2, 1973 to March 13, 1974).

Similar proceedings were held with respect to the other 300 inmates involved in the incident of September 6. These resulted, plaintiff alleges, in the confinement to Segregation of approximately fifty black and one white inmate.

Plaintiff appeared before the Merit Staff January 23, 1974, where he was informed that he would be demoted and denied statutory good time. He again requested and was denied the opportunity to call witnesses and to question his accusers.

Plaintiff allegedly was not allowed outdoor exercises, was confined to his cell twenty-four hours per day, and was allowed only three showers during this period of confinement. Additionally, he is allegedly currently suffering constant drowsiness and headaches.

I

The defendants have moved for dismissal of due process allegations and the equal protection claim for failure to state a cause of action or for summary judgment if such claims are considered on the merits, and for dismissal of the cruel and unusual punishment allegation for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Plaintiff puts forth two due process claims resulting from his confinement from September 6, 1973 to March 13, 1974. The first is based on his twenty-four hour daily confinement from September 6 to December 2 without advance notice and a hearing; the second is founded upon the denial of an opportunity to call witnesses and cross-examine his accusers before the Disciplinary, Assignment, and Merit Committees.

It is well-settled that prisoners retain the protections of the Due Process Clause. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 41 L.Ed.2d 935, Decided June 26, 1974; Miller v. Twomey, 479 F.2d 701 (7th Cir. 1973); Burns v. Swenson, 430 F.2d 771 (8th Cir. 1970). The nature of incarceration imposes certain restrictions on the scope of due process protection, however, and the Seventh Circuit has held that, with respect to disciplinary proceedings, the Constitution requires only advance written notice of the proceeding, a dignified hearing in which the accused may be heard, an opportunity to request that other witnesses be called or interviewed, and an impartial decision-maker. Miller v. Twomey, supra, 479 F.2d at 716.

The plaintiff's challenge to his daily twenty-four hour confinement between September 6 and December 2 without advance notice and a hearing could prevail under a literal interpretation of the Miller holding. As reflected in the following language, that decision stands for the broad proposition that an accommodation must be reached between institutional needs and objectives and the constitutional due process mandate:

  Nevertheless, it does not inevitably follow that
  procedural safeguards must apply wherever an
  inmate is removed from the general population.
  Before such a conclusion is justified in any
  given set of circumstances, there must be an
  identification of the precise nature of the
  government interest as well as the private
  interest affected. . . . A good faith
  determination that immediate action is necessary
  to forestall a riot outweighs the interest in
  accurate determination of individual culpability
  before taking precautionary steps. Miller v.
  Twomey, supra, at 717.

The confinement of the plaintiff and the other inmates who were out of their cells during the incident of September 6, was the institution's response to circumstances that threatened the security of the prison complex. The accommodation proposed in Miller v. Twomey, supra, might, in the ...


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