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Wilson v. Williams

May 8, 1996




Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 90 C 3642--Bruce M. Van Sickle, Judge. *fn*

Before HARLINGTON WOOD, JR., COFFEY, and RIPPLE, Circuit Judges.



HARLINGTON WOOD, JR., Circuit Judge.

This case, now before us for the second time, arose out of an altercation in the Cook County Jail on June 23, 1988. Plaintiff-appellant Jackie Wilson alleged that on that date, while he was held in the jail as a pretrial detainee, a corrections officer, defendant-appellee James K. Williams, attacked him without provocation. A fight and wrestling match ensued; Wilson claimed that after the two were separated and Wilson was restrained by other corrections officers, Williams continued to beat and kick him. Wilson also claimed that later that same day Williams again attacked him while Wilson was restrained near a security post in a different area of the jail. Wilson brought suit under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983, asserting he was "punished" while a pretrial detainee without a prior adjudication of guilt, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

For his part, corrections officer Williams admitted that an altercation occurred, but denied starting the fight and asserted that any force used was justified under the circumstances. Just exactly what those circumstances were, however, is quite unclear. Following an initial period of discovery, the district court granted the defendants' *fn1 summary judgment motion, but this decision was reversed on appeal. This court found that Wilson's affidavits created genuine issues of fact as to "who started the fight, whether Wilson provoked the fight, whether the fight continued after Wilson was restrained, whether [Williams' fellow officer] Cavallone was involved in the altercation at all, and whether Williams hit Wilson outside the security post." Wilson v. Williams, 997 F.2d 348, 351 (7th Cir. 1993).

On remand, after further discovery, a jury trial was held. Who started the fight and the exact events that led to it remained the primary issue. All agree that the altercation basically took place in the dayroom of Tier E-1, a disciplinary tier of the jail. *fn2 Beyond this simple fact, and despite several stipulations, the stories diverge a great deal. To briefly summarize, on the afternoon of the incident Wilson and a fellow pretrial detainee, Aryules Bivens, were watching television in the dayroom. Meanwhile, officer Williams, who did not know or have any prior contact with Wilson, was called to the tier to escort another inmate, Johnnie Walker Redd, to his cell. Redd was variously described by inmates and staff as "anti-social," "obnoxious," and a "troublemaker"; it was also suggested that he feared violence from the other inmates because of his aggravating behavior.

Responding to the call for an escort, Williams met Redd at the designated security area near the dayroom. The two proceeded towards Redd's cell, intending to pass through the dayroom to reach the cell corridor just beyond it. Redd entered the dayroom, with Williams following behind. Wilson claims Redd motioned to him, apparently to help him carry some property, so Wilson approached. Bivens also started walking toward Williams and Redd. As Redd neared the open gate on the other side of the dayroom, officer Williams claims he heard either Wilson or Bivens say "get the mother fucker," and an attack ensued. Williams claims he pushed Redd through the gate and told him to run to his cell; meanwhile Bivens hit Williams then broke off quickly to follow Redd, slamming the sliding gate shut behind him and leaving Wilson to fight Williams. Fisticuffs and wrestling between Williams and Wilson ensued. (Corrections officers at the facility carry no weapons, and none were involved here.) Other corrections officers soon responded and found Williams pinned down by Wilson after several blows had been struck by each.

Wilson's story, supported in part by Bivens, was predictably much different. Wilson claims that after Redd motioned to him, he simply followed Williams in line as the group proceeded across the dayroom. Bivens then stepped between Redd and Williams in the line as they neared the open gate to the cell corridor. Purportedly seeking to exploit Redd's fears or otherwise provoke him, Bivens crossed the threshold from the dayroom then immediately reached behind his back and slammed the gate shut. This left Bivens and Redd alone on the cellblock side of the gate, and Williams and Wilson alone on the dayroom side. Wilson claims that at that point he laughed, and that Williams, seeing this and becoming embarrassed, grabbed him and threw him to the floor in response. The fight then proceeded from there in the same fashion as related above.

In addition to the dispute over how the altercation started, testimony also differed as to how it ended. On the one hand, Wilson claims that after he was pulled from Williams and restrained by other officers, Williams advanced on him again, beating and kicking him until ordered to stop by a superior. Bivens told a similar story, though much of his testimony was wildly exaggerated and did not match Wilson's. Wilson also asserts that he was injured from a fall down three or four stairs after being pushed by officers escorting him away, and that Williams again attacked him while he stood restrained near another security post waiting to be taken for medical treatment. Williams, on the other hand, supported by four other officers, claimed that Wilson continued flailing about as the officers attempted to handcuff him, and that he had no further contact with Wilson after the two were separated. Both Wilson and Williams required medical attention for minor injuries.

At the instructions conference, Wilson objected to the only instruction regarding substantive law, entitled "Elements of Section 1983 Claim." This instruction, developed by the trial court, was as follows:

In order to prove his claim under Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code, the plaintiff must establish by a preponderance of the evidence each of the following elements:

(1) the defendant deprived the plaintiff of a constitutional right, and in so doing, acted deliberately or with callous indifference, evidenced by an actual intent to violate plaintiff's constitutional rights or reckless disregard for his rights;

(2) the defendant acted under color of the authority of the state of Illinois;

(3) that the defendant's acts were the legal cause of the plaintiff's damages.

. . . .

With regard to the first element, the constitutional right at issue in this case is the plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right, as a pretrial detainee, not to be punished. The state has a right to hold a pretrial detainee in custody, but the state may not actually punish that person prior to an adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process of law. "Punishment" is a deliberate act intended to chastise or deter. The plaintiff claims that the defendant's use of excessive and unnecessary force against him amounted to punishment.

In order to prove that the defendant used excessive and unnecessary force, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence:

(1) some harm, that

(2) resulted directly and only from the use of force that was clearly excessive to the need; and the excessiveness of which was

(3) objectively unreasonable in light of the facts and circumstances at the time.

If the plaintiff fails to prove any one of these elements, you must ...

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