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Jones v. Mooney

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

May 31, 2017

CORBIN D. JONES, # 01-30-1989-46, and LEKEDRIEON RUSSELL, Plaintiffs,
v.
NEILL MOONEY, MT. VERNON JUSTICE CENTER COUNTY JAIL, C. GREENWOOD, JENNIFER ROBERTS, A. BLANDFORD, J. CARLTON, B. HUFF, A. MEYERS, LT. HAYNES, LT. BONNIE MAY, C/O SPARTEGUES, CAPT. MOUNT, C/O JEFF CLARK, NURSE SHIRLEY, DR. PAULIUS, C/O FORTAG, C/O EDWARDS, DEPUTY TRAVIS SCOTT, C/O NANCY, C/O CONWAY, and C/O McKENNETH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs, who are currently incarcerated in the Jefferson County Justice Center (“the jail”), have jointly brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Their claims include being confined in a cell contaminated with another inmate's blood, denial of medical attention for possible exposure to disease, and denial of out-of-cell recreation. Jones raises an individual claim that his legal mail has been opened and destroyed, and that medical care for injuries he sustained before his arrest was delayed or denied. Russell claims that he was denied medication and treatment for his mental health conditions. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A .

         Under § 1915A, the Court is required to screen prisoner complaints to filter out non-meritorious claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The Court must also assess whether the claims brought by the two Plaintiffs in this case are properly joined in a single action. As shall be explained below, Plaintiff Russell's claims shall be severed into a separate action, because the two Plaintiffs' distinct claims are not appropriately joined in this case. Because each Plaintiff's claims shall proceed in a separate action, the required merits review under § 1915A shall be conducted after the cases have been severed.

         The Complaint

         The Complaint was submitted in two parts. The first section (filed as Doc. 1) is signed by both Plaintiffs and consists of 20 pages. Two pages in this section contain cursory references to Plaintiff Jones' claims for deliberate indifference, interference with legal mail, and denial of recreation (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 7), but the majority of the factual allegations are identified with Plaintiff Russell's name.[1] The second section (containing 70 pages and filed as Doc. 1-1) begins with a page bearing Plaintiff Jones' name and address. The remainder of that document relates to Plaintiff Jones' claims.

         Plaintiff Russell alleges that on March 29, 2017, a cellmate (Joshua Heart) attempted to kill himself by cutting both his wrists (Doc. 1, pp. 13, 16, 18). Russell pressed the intercom button repeatedly to summon help, but no jail staff members responded until about 20 minutes later. (Doc. 1, pp. 10, 13, 16-18). Meanwhile, Russell tore his underwear to make a tourniquet in an attempt to stop Heart's bleeding. (Doc. 1, p. 18). The cell “look[ed] like a blood bath” after Heart cut himself, and Russell got Heart's blood all over his face, hands, and clothes. (Doc. 1, pp. 13, 16, 18). Heart is a “known drug addict, ” so Russell asked to be tested for HIV, Hepatitis-C, and tuberculosis, but no testing has been performed. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 13, 20). For at least 4 days after the suicide attempt, the blood was not cleaned up from the cell or surrounding area, including the prisoners' meal table, and Russell continued to be exposed to it. (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 16). Russell was allowed to shower, but was not given any cleaning supplies for the cell. (Doc. 1, pp. 14, 18).

         Russell had previously been diagnosed with depression, ADHD, bipolar, and PTSD. (Doc. 1, pp. 17, 19). Since witnessing Heart's suicide attempt, Russell has experienced sleep disturbances, shaking, and cold sweats. (Doc. 1, pp. 16-17, 19-20). He requested Captain Mount and other staff to help him get mental health treatment, but his requests have been ignored. (Doc. 1, p. 19). Further, he has not received his regular prescription medication for his preexisting mental health conditions.

         Russell also alleges that he “begged” to be allowed out of the cell for recreation, but Jennifer Roberts refused to let him out for 3 days in a row, and told him to stop pressing the intercom button. (Doc. 1, pp. 14, 18).

         Both Plaintiffs seek damages for the violations of their rights. (Doc. 1, pp. 7, 9).

         Turning to the second section of the Complaint (Doc. 1-1), after the cover page bearing Plaintiff Jones' name and address, Jones includes a copy of a photograph of purported drug evidence seized from his home. (Doc. 1-1, p. 2). This page is identical to a page contained in another Complaint filed by Plaintiff Jones in a different action filed in this Court on April 3, 2017, Jones v. Mooney, Case No. 17-cv-337-JPG (Doc. 1, p. 6 in that case). Jones continues with a narrative describing the search of his room by Officers Mooney and Greenwood on February 13, 2017, which culminated in his arrest. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 3-4). Many of these allegations overlap with matters raised in Case No. 17-337. However, in the present case, Jones raises a distinct allegation that after Mooney ordered another unidentified officer to put him in handcuffs, that officer applied the handcuffs so tightly that Jones' hands became badly swollen, preventing jail officials from taking his fingerprints for 3 days. (Doc. 1-1, p. 4).

         The remainder of the 70 pages in Doc. 1-1 consists of many piecemeal handwritten statements, interspersed with copies of documents such as police reports from Jones' arrest, excerpts from the Illinois Constitution, receipts from purchases at the jail, jail menus, and the state court order setting bond after Jones' arrest. The narrative portions include some description of Jones being exposed to blood from the cellmate's suicide attempt and his inability to get cleaning supplies from jail staff (Doc. 1-1, pp. 9, 12, 70), officials opening his incoming legal mail and reading his outgoing legal mail (Doc. 1-1, pp. 10, 14, 20-21, 44-45, 59), delay and denial of medical care for acid burns Jones had sustained before his arrest (Doc. 1-1, pp. 23, 25, 42-43, 47, 50-51, 63), denial of out-of-cell recreation (Doc. 1-1, pp. 13, 22, 61), and various other complaints about the jail conditions.

         Discussion

         Based on the allegations of the Complaint, Russell's and Jones' claims may be described in the following counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit. Any other claim that is mentioned in the Complaint but not addressed in this Order should be considered dismissed without prejudice.

Count 1: Deliberate indifference claim against Mount for failing to provide Russell with treatment or medications for his diagnosed mental health conditions or for his mental health symptoms that developed after witnessing the cellmate's suicide attempt;
Count 2: Deliberate indifference claim for the failure to provide Russell with medical testing for communicable diseases following his ...

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