Steven D. Lisle, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant,
William Welborn, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
March 29, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Illinois. No. 3:15-CV-00965 - Michael J. Reagan,
Hamilton, Barrett, and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.
HAMILTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
appeal presents issues stemming from a prison's
discipline of a prisoner and his later suicide attempts. The
story began in 2014 when correctional officers at the Menard
Correctional Facility found contraband alcohol in the cell of
plaintiff Steven D. Lisle, Jr. Lisle's cellmate at first
took responsibility for the contraband but later recanted
outside of Lisle's presence. He said instead that Lisle
had been abusing him and had forced him to take the blame for
the alcohol. In disciplinary proceedings, Lisle later asked
to call a witness to testify about his cellmate's initial
admissions. His requests were ignored. Lisle, who is black,
was sentenced to four months in disciplinary segregation. His
cellmate, who was white, was not disciplined.
in segregation, Lisle attempted to commit suicide three
times. His third attempt was nearly successful, and he was
placed on suicide watch in the prison infirmary. While there,
Lisle claims, a nurse taunted him for his failed suicide
attempts and encouraged him to try again. Lisle filed this
suit alleging that he was punished based on his race, that he
was deprived of liberty without due process of law, and that
the prison staff's conduct in the wake of his mental
health crisis- including the nurse's statements-amounted
to cruel and unusual punishment.
district court granted summary judgment on several claims but
held a jury trial on Lisle's claims for deliberate
indifference to a serious medical need. During jury
selection, defense lawyers used peremptory strikes to remove
three of the four black potential jurors. After the jury was
selected, but before it was sworn and the venire released,
Lisle's counsel objected pursuant to Batson v.
Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), challenging the use of
peremptory strikes against the black jurors. The judge denied
the objection as untimely.
appeals the summary judgment decision and seeks a new trial
based on his Batson claim. We agree that his
Batson claim was timely, and we cannot find that the
erroneous denial was harmless. We remand for an evidentiary
hearing on the Batson claim and, if necessary, a new
trial on all claims that were tried. We also reverse summary
judgment for the nurse on the taunting claim. We affirm all
other aspects of the judgment.
Factual & Procedural Background
Cell Search & Disciplinary Proceeding
extent we review the partial grant of summary judgment, we
review the facts in the light most favorable to Lisle as the
non-moving party, giving him the benefit of conflicts in the
evidence. Spaine v. Community Contacts, Inc., 756
F.3d 542, 544 (7th Cir. 2014). Steven D. Lisle, Jr. was an
inmate at the Menard Correctional Center in Illinois, where
he shared a cell with another inmate. On August 12, 2014,
when Lisle was at the prison gym, correctional officers
searched his cell and found contraband: a trash bag of liquid
that contained 7% alcohol. Two correctional officers took
Lisle to segregation to await a disciplinary hearing.
way to the segregation unit, he crossed paths with his
cellmate, who had also been at the gym when the search
occurred. Lisle asked his cellmate if he was going to
"take his weight" (claim responsibility) for the
contraband. The cellmate said yes and told Lisle that he had
"already told them whatever they found" in the cell
was his. Lieutenant Michael Samuel was within earshot of this
conversation. Lisle told Lieutenant Samuel that he was going
to call him as a witness at his disciplinary hearing. Samuel
told Lisle he would testify.
of Lisle's presence, though, his cellmate later recanted.
He said he had claimed the alcohol was his only because Lisle
had put him "through some serious hell." The
cellmate revealed extensive bruising all over his body that
he claimed was the result of Lisle's physical and sexual
abuse. He expressed fear for his life. The cellmate was
placed in protective custody and a rape kit was used to test
him. He was never placed in segregation, and the Adjustment
Committee found him not guilty for the contraband. Lieutenant
Brook-man testified in this case that Lisle was not informed
of the allegations his cellmate made because disclosing to an
alleged abuser that his victim has reported the abuse is
"what gets people hurt in prison."
Lisle was placed in segregation, a correctional officer
provided him with a copy of the disciplinary report outlining
the charged violations. Lisle asked for a pen so that he
could sign the report and ask to have Lieutenant Samuel
testify at the disciplinary hearing. The officer refused, so
Lisle made an oral request that Samuel be called to testify.
The next day, Lisle met with his counselor and again made an
oral request to call Lieutenant Samuel as a witness. His
counselor forwarded the request to Internal Affairs, which in
turn faxed the request to the Adjustment Committee.
days after the search, the disciplinary hearing was held
before the Adjustment Committee comprised of Lieutenant Kent
Brookman and another official whom Lisle has not sued.
Lieutenant Samuel did not attend the disciplinary hearing.
Brookman indicated he had already spoken with Samuel and
would do so again.
Adjustment Committee found Lisle guilty and sentenced him to
four months of disciplinary segregation and four months of
reduced privileges, such as commissary restrictions, and six
months of contact visit restriction. Despite Lisle's
request that Samuel testify at least three times, the
Adjustment Committee's final report indicated that he had
not requested a witness.
Lisle's Mental Health Crisis
in segregation, Lisle attempted to commit suicide with a
makeshift rope three times over the course of three days. He
claimed that being denied the chance to present a witness at
his hearing and the slow response to the post-hearing
grievances he filed caused him to become depressed. He
repeatedly asked for a mental health and crisis team but did
not receive intervening assistance before his third suicide
described his segregation cell as being poorly ventilated,
with rusty bars and with corroded feces in the toilet. He was
not given a brush to clean the toilet, and he had access to
fewer cleaning supplies due to his loss of commissary
privileges. He also had fewer privileges than when he was in
general population, such as loss of access to the gym and
fewer opportunities to go outside or shower. He had a
cellmate throughout his entire stay in
described his first two suicide attempts in a deposition
taken April 25, 2017. He said his first suicide attempt on
September 3, 2014 failed when the makeshift rope he tied
around his neck snapped under his weight. Lisle alleges
Lieutenant Welborn and Nurse Reeves witnessed the attempt.
Lisle claims he informed them he was attempting to kill
himself and handed Reeves a suicide note. According to Lisle,
they both walked away without a word.
next day, Lisle again attempted suicide unsuccessfully, this
time, he says, in the presence of correctional officer
Christopher McClure and another nurse, Jodi Hormann. Lisle
again claims he handed the nurse a suicide note and told them
both that he intended to kill himself. In a repeat of the day
before, Lisle says, the two prison staff members simply
walked away. Before Lisle attempted suicide a third time, he
gave another officer, Cale Young, a third suicide note and
informed the officer that he was going to attempt suicide
again. According to Lisle, Young put the note in his pocket
and walked away.
night of September 5, 2014, Lisle attempted to commit suicide
a third time while his cellmate was asleep. This time, a
correctional officer and a medical staff member saw him
hanging in his cell and yelled for his cellmate to help. His
cellmate helped the officers support Lisle by his legs to
give the officers time to remove the rope from his neck.
Lisle was taken to the infirmary, where the medical staff
noted he had injuries on his neck that appeared several days
old, consistent with prior suicide attempts. He remained in
the infirmary and was placed on suicide watch.
instructions of the medical director, Lisle was placed on
"strip cell suicide watch," which meant he was not
provided a mattress and could use only a suicide-resistant
blanket. He was also checked every ten minutes, with vital
signs checked every two hours. Jana South was a nurse working
in the infirmary when Lisle was admitted. Lisle testified
that when Nurse South evaluated him a few hours later, she
repeatedly mocked him for failing to kill himself. She
lamented that Lisle had not succeeded in his suicide
attempts, told him he should have done it
"properly," and said he should "do a better
job next time." Later, Lisle also complained that his
back hurt from sleeping on the steel slab without a mattress
and requested a blanket because his cell was too cold. South
taunted him, saying that if he wanted a mattress, he should
not be on suicide watch and that he should not care about
being cold or uncomfortable since he was trying to kill
himself. South denied making any of these statements.
the dispute about what Nurse South said, it is undisputed
that she continued to provide care to Lisle. She evaluated
him several times, took his vital signs, and conducted at
least one neurological examination. After her first
evaluation of Lisle, South also called a mental health
physician to ...