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Knox v. Lashbrook

September 14, 2006

COREY KNOX, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CPT. LASHBROOK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Proud, Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff Corey Knox, an inmate in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, housed during all relevant times at Menard Correctional Center, brought the above-captioned civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff alleges that the defendant correctional officers, Jacqueline Lashbrook, Denny Bryant, Daniel Dunn, George Welborn, Jeffery Richelman, Kenneth Turner and Jack Ashby, used excessive force and cruel and unusual punishment against him, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Docs. 1 and 50). After the parties waived their respective demands for trial by jury, a bench trial was conducted. (Doc. 44). At the conclusion of all the evidence, the Court took the case under advisement and the parties were given an opportunity to file motions and briefs. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(c), the defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law. (Doc. 75). Plaintiff did not file any motion or brief, nor did he file a response to the defendants' motion.

Summation of the Evidence

It is undisputed that on the date in question, August 1, 2001, plaintiff Knox was housed in cell 218 of North cell house at Menard, which is a segregation unit. (Doc. 66, p. 41). Plaintiff admittedly threw a container of well-used toilet water from his cell onto Correctional Officer ("C/O") James Taylor. (Doc. 66, pp. 17 and 41). C/O Taylor called defendant Sergeant Dunn to report the incident. (Doc. 66, p. 17). Dunn determined that the area needed to be cleaned. (Doc. 74, p. 73).

By plaintiff's account, defendants Dunn, Ashby, Lashbrook and Welborn all arrived at his cell and requested that he "cuff-up" so they could remove him and clean the cell. (Doc. 66, P. 41). Dunn and Welborn then escorted plaintiff to the shower area and, according to plaintiff, cuffed his hands behind him at shoulder height, and left him for three hours. (Doc. 66, p. 42 (plaintiff physically demonstrated his position for the Court)). In contrast, defendants Dunn and Welborn described plaintiff's arms being cuffed behind him, about waist high, in a manner that allowed plaintiff to stand or sit on a nearby table. (Doc. 66, pp. 20-21 and 23; and Doc. 74, p. 74). Defendant Ashby, the only other witness to testify that he saw plaintiff cuffed in the shower, described plaintiff as sitting on a table with his arms cuffed directly behind him, in no apparent distress or pain. (Doc. 66, p. 13).

Plaintiff testified that while in the shower he yelled at other inmates, asking them to get a guard to uncuff him from the position he was in, all to no avail. (Doc. 66, p. 42). Plaintiff's pleas for assistance were generally corroborated by inmates Robert Boyd and Antwon Mitchell. (Doc. 66, pp. 33 and 39). According to plaintiff, he stayed cuffed in the shower for approximately three hours. (Doc. 66, p. 42). Inmate Boyd estimated plaintiff was cuffed in the shower for two-to-three hours, and inmate James Scott testified that he did not recall exactly how long plaintiff was in the shower, but it was longer than the usual 10 minutes inmates are allotted to shower. (Doc. 66, pp. 33 and 51). Lieutenant Lashbrook recounted leaving plaintiff's cell to supervise the "yard lines" exiting the cell house, and then returning to the shower area during the time plaintiff's cell was being stripped and cleaned. (Doc. 66, pp. 26). According to Lashbrook, plaintiff did not appear to be in any apparent discomfort. (Doc. 66, p. 29). Defendant Ashbrook testified that it typically takes 10-15 minutes to strip a cell, but it can take longer if something like an inmate count is occurring at the same time. (Doc. 66, p. 13).

According to plaintiff, when defendants Lashbrook, Bryant, Turner, Richelman, Welborn and Ashby eventually returned, they placed a pillowcase over his head, dropped him on his head, kicked and punched him, and then carried him down the gallery to his cell, where they again dropped, kicked and punched him. (Doc. 66, pp. 42-44). All told, plaintiff estimated he was kicked and punched for about one or two minutes. (Doc. 66, p. 44). Defendants Ashby, Welborn, Lashbrook, Turner, Richelman and Dunn explained that plaintiff was spitting on the officers and refusing to walk, so a pillow case was placed on plaintiff's head and he was carried back to his cell. (Doc. 66, pp. 9, 14-15, 21, 28 and 56-57; and Doc. 74, pp. 73-74). According to Ashby, Welborn, Lashbrook, Turner, Richelman and Dunn, plaintiff was kicking and screaming as he was carried, but plaintiff was not punched, kicked or dropped. (Doc. 66, pp. 14, 22-24, 30 and 57-58; and Doc. 74, p. 75). Defendant C/O Bryant had no recollection of the incident at issue, but he denies ever kicking or punching plaintiff. (Doc. 66, p. 55).

Inmate Boyd, who was celled in the gallery above where plaintiff was, admitted he could not see any of the events at issue, but he claims to have heard plaintiff yelling that he could not breathe and needed a nurse, which Boyd attributed to plaintiff having been maced (which, by plaintiff's account did not occur). (Doc. 66, pp. 33-34). Inmate Antwon Mitchell generally recalled plaintiff being dragged down the gallery with a pillow case on his head. (Doc. 66, p. 38-39). Inmate David Morris, responding to a series of leading questions from plaintiff, affirmed that he saw plaintiff being dragged down the gallery, while being kicked and punched, but Morris could not recall any details. (Doc. 66, p. 48). Morris estimated the assault took approximately 10 minutes. (Doc. 66, p. 49). Similarly, inmate James Scott recounted plaintiff, with a pillow case over his head, being dragged down the gallery as unspecified correctional officers beat him. (Doc. 66, p. 50). Inmate Gabriel Hayes describe seeing correctional officers dragging plaintiff, who had a pillow case on his head and was saying he could not breath; the officers were "wrestling" and "tussling" with plaintiff, but not hitting him. (Doc. 74, pp. 77-78).

Inmate William Carr somehow melded events in his mind and described plaintiff being maced, and being taken by defendants Ashby and Lashbrook, and "C/O Hillman," to the shower with a pillow case on his head. (Doc. 74, pp. 84-85). Inmate Mason Williams testified to a similarly mixed-up version of events. (Doc. 74, pp. 87-88). Inmates Alan Martin and Paul Henderson was called to testify, but they had no recollection or relevant testimony. (Doc. 66, pp. 60-61; and Doc. 74, pp. 79-81). Lieutenant Eva Marie Moore was called to testify, but she also had had no recollection or relevant testimony. (Doc. 74, pp. 68-70).

Relative to claimed damages, plaintiff Knox testified that approximately 30 minutes later he was taken to the Health Care Unit for a wrist injury, although he also incurred a "small knot" on his head, for which he was given an ice pack. (Doc. 66, pp. 43-45). Medical records submitted by plaintiff and defendant reflect he was seen at approximately 11:00 a.m. for superficial injuries on both wrists-- attributed to handcuffs-- sustained at approximately 10:15 a.m. (Plaintiff's Exhibit 1). Plaintiff apparently refused treatment. (Plaintiff's Exhibit 1). A psychiatric exam was deemed warranted; plaintiff was found to be combative, angry and unpredictable. (Defendants' exhibit 1). Lieutenant Ashby acknowledged plaintiff had "a little mark" on his wrist, and Lieutenant Lashbrook recalled plaintiff saying something about a wrist injury as he was being taken to the Health Care Unit. (Doc. 66, pp. 10 and 30).

Findings of Fact

Having reviewed all of the evidence and adjudged each witness's credibility, the Court makes the following essential findings of fact.

Defendants Dunn and Welborn handcuffed plaintiff in the shower area with his hands behind him, approximately waist high, so that plaintiff was able to stand or sit on a nearby table. Plaintiff remained in that position for approximately three hours. Plaintiff was uncomfortable and yelled at other inmates in an attempt to get a guard to release him from that position, all to no avail. However, there is no evidence that word of plaintiff's discomfort reached any of the defendants, and those who did observe plaintiff did not perceive that he was in any sort of pain or distress.

When defendants Lashbrook, Bryant, Turner, Richelman, Welborn and Ashby eventually returned, they placed a pillowcase over plaintiff's head because he was spitting at them. Plaintiff could obviously breath through the pillow case because, by all accounts, he was yelling; moreover, plaintiff himself did not complain that he could not breath. Lashbrook, Bryant, Turner, Richelman, Welborn and Ashby "carried" plaintiff down the gallery to his cell because he was kicking and refusing to walk. The Court understands the defendants' use of the term "carried" to include what was ...


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