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Parks v. White

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

November 8, 2019

DANIEL LEE PARKS, Plaintiff,
v.
LT. LISA WHITE, et al., Defendants.

          MERIT REVIEW - AMENDED COMPLAINT

          MICHAEL M. MIHM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and currently incarcerated at the Dixon Correctional Center, files an amended complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging deliberate indifference, excessive force and unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the Coles County Jail (“Jail”). The case is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In reviewing the Complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in Plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 649-51 (7th Cir. 2013). However, conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Enough facts must be provided to “state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Alexander v. United States, 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013)(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). While the pleading standard does not require “detailed factual allegations”, it requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Wilson v. Ryker, 451 Fed.Appx. 588, 589 (7th Cir. 2011) quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         On April 3, 2017, Plaintiff was confined at the Jail where he had been on suicide watch for an undisclosed period. Plaintiff complains that on that date and for the next two weeks, Defendant Lieutenant Lisa White kept him on suicide watch even though he was no longer “actively suicidal.” He also claims that Defendant White kept him in a cell which was very cold and provided him only a smock, without a cot or blanket.

         On May 4, 2017, Plaintiff was taken to state court for a hearing scheduled by Plaintiff's public defender who was requesting that Plaintiff undergo a mental health evaluation and potential hospitalization. Plaintiff claims that while walking into court, he swallowed a small piece of a razor blade, not indicating how he came to be in possession of it. Plaintiff told his attorney who, in turn, informed the presiding judge, Defendant James R Glenn. Counsel requested that Plaintiff be taken to the hospital for medical attention. Plaintiff, however, refused to go voluntarily, claiming that if he were taken, it would have to be by ambulance.

         While in court, Plaintiff he was escorted by Officer Kastl, believed to be a court employee. While Counsel and the Judge were speaking, Plaintiff attempted to pull away from Officer Kastl to “bang his head on the bench.” Officer Kastl shook Plaintiff out of the room and tackled him in the hallway. Plaintiff began kicking, telling the officer that he would take his gun and shoot himself. Plaintiff does not name Officer Kastl as a Defendant and does not claim that the Officer engaged in excessive force. Plaintiff was thereafter returned to the Jail, apparently without having been taken to the hospital.

         When Plaintiff arrived at the Jail, Defendant Sergeant Beadles allegedly grabbed him by the arms, took him upstairs and slammed him against the wall, telling nursing staff “he is just lying about swallowing a blade.” Later, while Defendant Beadles was escorting Plaintiff to a suicide watch room, Plaintiff pulled away, intentionally slamming his head against a set of metal bars. Plaintiff indicates that this “cracked the front of my head open.” In response, Defendant slammed Plaintiff against a locked exit door and “dry tazed” him for 15 to 20 seconds. When Plaintiff fell to the floor, Defendant dragged him to another room.

         Plaintiff claims that there was an unidentified Detective in this room and that the Detective pulled his hair and told him not to say a word. When Plaintiff complained that he was in pain, the Detective stated that he did not care. Defendant Beadles and the Detective thereafter strapped Plaintiff into a restraint chair. It appears that medical staff was called to evaluate Plaintiff as he indicates that “nursing” told him that the laceration of his forehead would heal.

         Plaintiff claims that he was kept in the restraint chair for three days upon orders of Defendant White. When Defendant released him, she allegedly placed a shock bracelet on his ankle with the capacity to release 100, 000 volts of electricity. Plaintiff does not claim, however, that he received any shock from the device.

         Plaintiff asserts that the Defendants exhibited deliberate indifference to his serious mental health needs as the Jail had a medical doctor available, but not a psychiatrist. He also claims that Defendants White, Beadles and the unidentified Detective fail to provide him adequate medical care and that Defendant Beadles and the Detective used excessive force against him. Plaintiff bolsters this claim by asserting that Defendant Beadles left a bruise on his left arm.

         Plaintiff makes an unrelated claim that he was kept in inhumane conditions of confinement for 147 days while in pretrial detention. The room in which he was held was “smaller than a closet” and did not have a toilet or sink. As Plaintiff was previously informed, however, “defendants are properly joined in a single action only if they are parties to a single transaction or occurrence common to all defendants, and the claims against them involve a common question of fact or law.” Ghashiyah v. Frank, No. 05-0766, 2008 WL 680203, at *2 (E.D. Wis. Mar. 10, 2008). See also, George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007), “[u]nrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits.” The conditions of confinement in pre-trial detention are unrelated to the April 3, 2017 claims regarding the suicide cell and the May 4, 2017 claims alleging deliberate indifference and use of excessive force. They are, therefore, DISMISSED.

         ANALYSIS

         As Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee during the events at issue, his claims are reviewed under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment. Darnell v. Pineiro, 849 F.3d 17 (2nd Cir. 2017). Under the Fourteenth Amendment standard, a pretrial detainee need establish that the defendant's conduct was objectively unreasonable, not that defendant was subjectively aware that it was unreasonable. Miranda v. County of Lake, 900 F.3d 335, 2018 WL 3796482, at *9 (7th Cir. 2018).

         Plaintiff claims that Defendant White should not have kept him in a suicide cell as he was not actively suicidal. Plaintiff does not claim, however, that medical personnel released him from suicide watch. Furthermore, he has pled several instances of self-harm and threatened suicide. As result, he fails to state a claim that Defendant White exhibited deliberate indifference in maintaining him on suicide watch status.

         Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant White kept him in a cold suicide watch cell without a cot or blanket. While these conditions might otherwise be viewed inhumane, it is recognized that a prisoner's conditions of confinement claim “must be considered in the context of his status at the time.” Williams v. Schmidt, No. 14-487, 2019 WL 1046167, at *2 (W.D. Wis. Mar. 5, 2019). A prisoner on suicide watch must, of necessity, be deprived of bedding and other items which he might otherwise use to harm himself. Id. at *2. It does not violate the Eighth Amendment to subject an individual to “harsh” conditions where there are no “reasonable alternatives.” See ...


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