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Lisle v. Butler

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 24, 2019

STEVEN D. LISLE, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Steven D. Lisle is an African American inmate in the Illinois Department of Corrections (“IDOC”) who filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his constitutional rights.

         In his First Amended Complaint, Lisle alleges that while he was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center (“Menard”), he received a false disciplinary ticket for contraband and was placed in segregation (Doc. 128). Lisle notes that his cellmate, who was white, took responsibility for the contraband but was ultimately found not guilty of the allegations. Lisle, however, was found guilty. He overheard prison personnel make racist remarks against him and he believes the disciplinary proceedings were race-motivated.

         While in segregation, Lisle made several suicide attempts. Correctional officers and medical staff at Menard were aware of Lisle’s mental health issues and history of suicide attempts, but failed to take proper measures to ensure his safety. Once Lisle was placed on suicide watch, Jana South, a nurse at Menard, told Lisle that if he was going to kill himself, he should do it right. Lisle was forced to sleep naked on a cold steel bed without a mattress or bedding, and was denied medical attention. Lisle alleges he asked for medical attention but never received any treatment. He states grievance counselors turned a blind eye to his numerous grievances complaining of the false disciplinary ticket, disparate racial treatment, suicide attempts, lack of medical care, and inhumane conditions while on suicide watch.

         United States District Judge Michael J. Reagan presided over this case until his retirement earlier this year. In December 2017, Judge Reagan granted partial summary judgment and dismissed several of Lisle’s claims (Doc. 186). Judge Reagan held, in part, that Lisle’s Eighth Amendment claim against South for mocking his suicide attempts fails as a matter of law. He concluded, “Defendant South’s statement that if Plaintiff were to attempt to kill himself, he should do it right, if truly said, is reprehensible. The statement alone, however, is not sufficient to allow Plaintiff to recover against South.” The following claims survived summary judgment:

Count 3: Deliberate indifference for intentionally disregarding a known risk of suicide against Jordana Reeves, William Welborn, Jodi Hormann, Christopher McClure, and Cale Young;
Count 4: Deliberate indifference against South for ignoring Lisle’s request for a doctor; and
Count 10: Deliberate indifference against Susan Hill for failure to respond to his grievances related to his suicide attempt.

         Judge Reagan presided over a jury trial on the remaining counts in January 2018 (Docs. 252-55). After the jurors were selected, but before they were sworn in, Lisle’s counsel raised an objection under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986) “for Wexford’s exercise of its preemptory strikes for racially motivated reasons and exercising two of the three preemptory on black jurors” (Doc. 252, p. 62). Judge Reagan responded,

You should have made them while we were doing it. I think you waived at this juncture. We can make a record. I know we do have an African American on the jury. Without us going backwards now and reinventing the wheel, I think it untimely and I deny on that basis. I do note juror 10 is African American and that juror was tendered to both Wexford and IDOC. They both accepted that juror. Juror 9 was stricken by IDOC. That was an African American. Juror 18 was stricken by Wexford, African American. Juror 23 is stricken by [Wexford].

(Id. at p. 64). Although he rejected the challenge as untimely, Judge Reagan gave defense counsel an opportunity to offer a race-neutral response.

         IDOC’s counsel stated that Juror 9 testified she had interactions with individuals in Illinois prisons and county jails, had discussed those individuals’ experiences with them, and believes those conversations would impact her decision in this case (Id. at pp. 64-65). Wexford’s counsel stated Jurors 18 and 23 testified that members of their families were incarcerated and appeared as if they would be unable to treat Defendants in this case fairly (Id. at p. 65). Judge Reagan found the reasons to be race-neutral and the jury was sworn in (Id. at pp. 64-66).

         After a two-day trial, the jury found in favor of Lisle on his deliberate indifference claims against Reeves, Welborn, Hormann, and McClure and awarded him compensatory damages only (Doc. 217). The jury found in favor of Young, South, and Hill on the remaining counts (Id.).

         Lisle appealed, and the Seventh Circuit found that Judge Regan erred when he granted summary judgment for South on Lisle’s claims against her for mocking his suicide attempts (Doc. 261, Ex. 1). The Seventh Circuit noted that “pain sufficient to constitute cruel punishment may be physical or psychological” (Id. at p. 18) (quoting Beal v. Foster, 803 F.3d 356, 357-38 (7th Cir. 2015) (internal alterations omitted)). And, “[w]ith the understanding that the Eighth Amendment also protects psychologically vulnerable inmates against psychological pain ...

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