Holloway v. Straughn et al
ORDER rendering verdict for defendant William Straughn, plaintiff Winston Holloway's complaint is dismissed with prejudice, and the parties shall bear their own costs. Signed by Chief Judge Brian S. Miller on 11/29/2017. (kdr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
PINE BLUFF DIVISION
WINSTON MONROE HOLLOWAY
CASE NO. 5:15-CV-00288 BSM
This case was tried to the bench on October 23, 2017. Having listened to the
testimony and having reviewed the exhibits introduced into evidence, verdict is entered for
defendant William Straughn and against plaintiff Winston Holloway.
Holloway has been an inmate of the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”)
since 1975. Holloway was housed in the Cummins unit from 1998 to 2008, when he was
transferred to the Tucker Maximum Security unit. Straughn was the Cummins unit’s deputy
warden at the time Holloway was transferred and wrote the memorandum requesting the
transfer. In 2009, Holloway was transferred back to the Cummins unit but was later
transferred from Cummins to the Varner unit in March of 2015. The transfer from Cummins
to Varner is the event that forms the basis of this lawsuit.
On February 6, 2015, the ADC issued Administrative Directive 15-04, which allowed
inmates to seek an exemption from the grooming policy if the policy interfered with an
inmate’s religious beliefs. Holloway, a Nazirite, filed a grievance on February 9, 2015,
because he was unsure of how to interpret the directive and wanted to avoid disciplinary
action. This grievance was rejected, and Holloway filed a second grievance on February 13,
2015. This grievance was resolved by Straughn, who had been promoted to warden. On
March 9, 2015, Holloway requested an interview with Straughn to obtain an exemption from
the grooming policy. On March 11, 2015, Holloway was transferred to the Varner unit.
Holloway filed this lawsuit claiming he was transferred to Varner in violation of his
First Amendment rights and in retaliation for his grievances and request for interview.
Holloway believes that Straughn directly or indirectly ordered his transfer to the Varner unit,
which is the most violent unit in the ADC, to punish him for exercising his First Amendment
right to file grievances. Straughn denies that he ordered the transfer and, in fact, states that
he had no knowledge of the March 2015 transfer until after it had been completed.
Holloway testified that Straughn did not like him and that, on a previous occasion in
2008, Straughn transferred him from Cummins to Tucker Max. He further testified that he
was transferred to Varner merely two days after he requested an interview with Straughn.
Finally, he relies on the testimony of his sister, Patsy Rios, who testified that she called
Straughn to ask about Holloway’s transfer, and Straughn acted suspiciously. Although
Straughn said he was not aware that Holloway had been transferred, his voice inflection was
offensive, and he told her Holloway was “not satisfied with the way things are here.”
Straughn testified that he recommended Holloway’s 2008 transfer but that he was in
no way involved in the March 2015 transfer. Indeed, he testified that he was totally unaware
that Holloway was being transferred. He further testified that he had no reason to dislike
Holloway because Holloway was a compliant inmate and that he did not remember
Holloway “writing a lot of grievances.”
Jared Byers, who was deputy warden at the Cummins unit in March 2015, testified
that the Cummins unit received a request from the Varner unit to exchange inmates. This
usually occurs when one prison unit wants to remove inmates to maintain or restore order.
Byers testified that he received the request from Varner and acted within his authority to
approve it without consulting Straughn. He performed no investigation into Holloway
before exchanging him and two other inmates with the Varner inmates. In fact, he testified
We do this every day. It’s not like there was any focus on any one of the three
necessarily other than just trying to find length of sentence and comparable to
what was being sent to us...at no time did I ever discuss this with Mr.
Straughn...I didn’t realize that it was an issue...It didn’t seem to be an issue
Further, Crystal Wood, the Cummins unit’s classification officer, testified that Byers made
the decision to transfer Holloway.
Jeremy Andrews testified that he was the deputy warden at the Varner unit when
Holloway was transferred in March 2015. He testified that inmate transfers occur daily in
the Arkansas Department of Correction and that he made the request to exchange inmates
with the Cummins unit. He submitted the names of the inmates he wanted to transfer out of
Varner but did not request specific inmates to be transferred back from Cummins. Andrews
never communicated with Straughn but dealt with Byers and Wood. He was not required
to get the permission of the Varner warden or the Cummins warden to complete the
exchange. He was never told by anyone at Cummins that Holloway was seeking a religious
accommodation, and even if someone had told him, it would not have made a difference.
When Holloway’s proof is weighed against the evidence opposing it, there is no doubt
that he has failed to prove that Straughn directed his March 2015 transfer in retaliation of
Holloway exercising his constitutional rights. The testimony shows that Straughn played
no role in the 2015 transfer. In fact, the evidence does not establish that Straughn was even
aware of the transfer before it was carried out. For these reasons, verdict is rendered for
defendant William Straughn, plaintiff Winston Holloway’s complaint is dismissed with
prejudice, and the parties shall bear their own costs.
Entered this 29th day of November 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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?