Dudley v. Tuscaloosa Co Jail
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge L Scott Coogler on 2/23/2015. (KAM, )
2015 Feb-23 PM 04:28
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
JOSHUA RESHI DUDLEY,
OFFICER GANDY, et al.,
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
This case was tried before the Court in a non-jury trial on February 9th and 10th
of 2015. The Court heard testimony from the Plaintiff, as well as the five original
Defendants. In addition, the Court received and viewed evidence including videos
from the Tuscaloosa County Jail showing part of the incident, medical records and
photographs of Plaintiff’s injuries, and certified copies of felony convictions of the
Plaintiff, including his convictions for assaulting two of the detention officers in the
disturbance made the basis of this suit.
Findings of Fact
The Plaintiff, Joshua Dudley (“Dudley”), was a pre-trial detainee in the
Page 1 of 10
Tuscaloosa County Jail on July 13, 2011, when he was involved in an altercation with
the Defendants, each of whom was a detention officer at the jail. At the time of the
altercation, Dudley was housed in a disciplinary unit within the jail and physically
located in a cell with other inmates. The inmates in his cell refused an order from
detention officer Lance Channell to remove a blanket they had placed over a light. The
officer then entered the cell to remove the blanket himself and was assaulted by one
of Dudley’s cellmates, Courtney Walker, who was pending trial on capital murder
charges. Another detention officer, Robert Little, pulled Channell from the cell and
Walker continued to fight with officer Little until backup arrived.
Supervisors Alan Gandy and Percy Sample were the first to respond. Officer
Gandy entered the cell with the inmates and removed the blanket covering the light.
Upon determining that inmate Walker had struck officer Channell and officer Little,
Gandy turned to escort Walker from the cell, and Dudley struck Gandy on the side of
the face with such force that it fractured Gandy’s eye socket. Dudley continued his
attack on Gandy, and officer Little tried to assist Gandy in restraining Dudley, while
officer Sample, officer Channell, and another officer restrained Courtney Walker.
The officers were able to get one of Dudley’s hands secured in a handcuff, but
because of his resistance were unable to secure the other. Having only one of Dudley’s
hands in the handcuff made him particularly dangerous in that he could continue his
Page 2 of 10
attack upon the officers using the open side of the handcuff as a weapon. Dudley can
clearly be seen on video exiting the cell unrestrained. Once outside the cell, the
officers were able to secure both hands, but Dudley continued to resist the efforts of
the officers to restrain him and escort him to a holding cell. At one point, Dudley can
be seen running around the dayroom outside his cell attempting to elude the officers.
Dudley asserted at trial that the officers were attempting to strike him while he was
running around that room, but it is clear that they were attempting to grab him rather
than strike him.
Officer Williamson, who was not present in the cell or dayroom when the
altercation occurred, assisted in escorting Dudley to a holding cell. Video footage from
the jail clearly shows Dudley continuing to resist the efforts of the officers as he was
escorted to the holding cell. At one point Dudley, while resisting as he was being
walked to the holding cell, causes himself and the officers to fall. It was at this point
that it became necessary for officer Williamson to secure Dudley by holding him
around his neck. It is clear by the way that Dudley continued to walk through the halls
of the jail, however, that neither his breathing nor his circulation was affected.
Even after being placed in a holding cell, Dudley resisted the efforts of the
officers to remove the handcuffs. Shortly after Dudley was placed in the holding cell,
he and officer Gandy were transported to the local emergency room for treatment of
Page 3 of 10
The Court finds that Dudley was not truthful about the events that occurred
that day. For example, Dudley testified that one of the officers coiled handcuffs
around his fist and struck him in the mouth extremely hard. However a photo of
Dudley after the incident clearly shows that he had no cuts, scrapes, gashes or wounds
of any type on or around his mouth. Additionally, it is clear to the court that Dudley’s
version of the events is implausible with regard to several other allegations. First,
under Dudley’s version of the facts, there is no way officer Gandy could have suffered
a fractured eye socket. Second, Dudley testified that these officers attempted to drag
him back into the cell so they could maliciously beat him. It is clear to the Court from
the video evidence that everyone in that cell, officers and inmates alike, was trying to
escape the area due to the release of a pepper spray. Third, Dudley was clearly not
restrained when he came out of the cell. The video shows two officers still struggling
to handcuff him outside the cell. If Dudley had been compliant as he testified, there
is simply no way his handcuffing would have been so difficult.
Moreover, the video evidence clearly shows that after Dudley was handcuffed,
he did not lie down as instructed by the officers. Instead, the video shows Dudley
getting up and running toward the area of the dayroom where another combative
inmate was struggling with officers while being handcuffed. Such evidence supports
Page 4 of 10
the officers’ testimony that Dudley resisted their orders throughout the entire
Additionally, the video shows both Dudley and his cellmate being led to holding
cells after they have been restrained. Dudley’s cellmate is walking upright and being
assisted by a single detention officer without incident, while Dudley is leaning and
pulling away from two detention officers and even causes all of the parties to fall at one
point. At this point it becomes necessary for officer Williamson to employ a vascular
neck hold to force Dudley to walk to the holding cell. This evidence supports the
officers’ version of the events, not Dudley’s. Dudley testified that officer Williamson
was “choking” him while attempting to place him in a holding cell. However, it is
clear that had Dudley been choked or unable to breathe, he also would have been
unable to walk to the holding cell, yet the video clearly shows him walking, albeit
resistively, to the holding cell. Further, Dudley was not gasping for breath at any point
after being released by Williamson.
Dudley also testified that the officers “slammed” his head into a concrete bench
several times inside the holding cell. The video evidence clearly shows that this never
occurred. Instead, Dudley’s upper body and head are being restrained so that the
handcuffs can be removed. The Court finds that Dudley is clearly lying about the
events that transpired in the jail on the day made the basis of this lawsuit. The Court
Page 5 of 10
also finds that the video evidence never shows any of the Defendants applying
excessive force or applying force for any purpose other than gaining Dudley’s
compliance and cooperation.
At the close of Dudley’s case, he conceded that Defendants Lance Channell and
Robert Little were due judgment as a matter of law, because he had failed to produce
any evidence that either had used excessive force against him. As a result, both were
dismissed from the case. The case proceeded against the remaining three Defendants.
Conclusions of Law
Claims of excessive force against pretrial detainees are governed by the
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, rather than the Eighth
Amendment, which applies to such claims by convicted prisoners. However, the
applicable standard is the same:
We thus apply the excessive force standard first
enunciated in Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (2d
Cir.1973), adopted by this Circuit in Williams v. Kelley, 624
F.2d 695, 697–98 (5th Cir.1980), and applied in this Circuit
thereafter in the Eighth Amendment context. See e.g.,
Campbell v. Sikes, 169 F.3d 1353, 1374–77 (11th Cir.1999).
Under this standard, “whether or not a prison guard's
application of force is actionable turns on whether that force
was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore
discipline or maliciously or sadistically for the very purpose
of causing harm.” Brown v. Smith, 813 F.2d 1187, 1188 (11th
Cir.1987) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also
Campbell, 169 F.3d at 1374.
Page 6 of 10
Bozeman v. Orum, 422 F.3d 1265, 1271 (11th Cir. 2005). In such cases, the Eleventh
Circuit has repeatedly held that a constitutional violation hinges on whether a
detention officer’s use of force “shocks the conscience”. Cockrell v. Sparks, 510 F.3d
1307, 1311 (11th Cir. 2007). To evaluate whether actions shock the conscience, the
following factors must be considered: (1) the need for force; (2) the relationship
between that need and the amount of force used; and (3) the extent of the resulting
injury. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320-21, 106 S.Ct. 1078, 1085, 89 L.Ed.2d 251
(1986). In addition to those three factors, the Eleventh Circuit considers as fourth and
fifth factors “the extent of the threat to the safety of staff and inmates, as reasonably
perceived by the responsible official on the basis of facts known to them, and any
efforts made to temper the severity of a forceful response.” Id. Lastly, when a court
considers whether the defendants’ use of force was excessive, it must “give a wide
range of deference to prison officials acting to preserve discipline and security.”
Bennett v. Parker, 898 F.2d 1530, 1533 (11th Cir. 1990).
When the “ever-present potential for violent
confrontation and conflagration,” Jones v. North Carolina
Prisoners' Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 132, 97 S.Ct.
2532, 2541, 53 L.Ed.2d 629 (1977), ripens into actual unrest
and conflict, the admonition that “a prison's internal
security is peculiarly a matter normally left to the discretion
of prison administrators,” Rhodes v. Chapman, supra, 452
U.S., at 349, n. 14, 101 S.Ct., at 2400, n. 14, carries special
weight. “Prison administrators ... should be accorded widePage 7 of 10
ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies
and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve
internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional
security.” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S., at 547, 99 S.Ct., at 1878.
That deference extends to a prison security measure taken
in response to an actual confrontation with riotous inmates,
just as it does to prophylactic or preventive measures
intended to reduce the incidence of these or any other
breaches of prison discipline. It does not insulate from
review actions taken in bad faith and for no legitimate
purpose, but it requires that neither judge nor jury freely
substitute their judgment for that of officials who have
made a considered choice.
Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 321-22, 106 S. Ct. 1078, 1085, 89 L. Ed. 2d 251
To succeed on his claim against each of the remaining Defendants, Dudley must
prove that each of them intentionally beat him with the purpose of causing harm, and
not in a good faith effort to restore order. See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7, 112
S. Ct. 995, 998-99, 117 L.Ed.2d 156 (1992). Although Dudley maintains that he was
fully compliant with the officers, the evidence plainly contradicts that assertion.
Utilizing the factors outlined in Whitley, it is clear that there was a need for force. The
officers were attacked by an inmate who continuously refused to comply with their
commands. And this Court finds, as all five officers testified at trial, that Dudley not
only resisted their efforts to detain and subdue him, but actively fought them.
Consequently, under Whitley, there was a need for force. Here, the amount of force
Page 8 of 10
used by the officers was reasonable. The evidence demonstrates that Dudley joined in
Courtney Walker’s attack on the detention officers, refused to be handcuffed and
resisted their efforts to restore discipline within the jail. The use of physical force by
the detention officers in defending themselves and in attempting to handcuff and
transport Dudley was in direct relation to his resistance and refusal to cooperate with
their commands. The resulting injury to Dudley was minimal and required no more
than a brief trip to the hospital. While Dudley did receive sutures or staples to his
scalp, none of his injuries were permanent in nature, suggesting that the force used by
Defendants was not excessive. Lastly, the threat to the safety of the detention officers
was extremely high during the incident. The cell door was open; the inmates in a
disciplinary dorm, including an inmate awaiting trial on capital murder charges, were
fighting the detention officers; pepper spray had been disbursed; and officer Gandy
had suffered a fractured eye socket from Dudley’s attack, all prior to the inmates
becoming restrained. It is easy for the Court to understand how Defendants perceived
these circumstances as a severe threat to the order and safety of the jail.
Consequently, it is the opinion of the Court that the force used by Defendants was not
excessive and did not violate Dudley’s constitutional rights.
Having carefully considered all of the evidence, it is clear that Dudley has failed
Page 9 of 10
to produce any substantive evidence that Defendants’ actions were not a good faith
effort to restore order. And, given the circumstances surrounding this event,
Defendants’ actions simply do not shock the conscience. Therefore, Dudley has failed
to establish that a constitutional violation has occurred. Each of the Defendants is
entitled to a final judgment in his favor.
A separate order will be entered.
Done this 23rd day of February 2015.
L. SCOTT COOGLER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Page 10 of 10
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?