Knight v. Edelman et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. Ordered by Judge Karen E. Schreier. (Schreier, Karen)
U N I T E D STATES DISTRICT COURT D I S T R I C T OF NEBRASKA T Y R E L L KNIGHT, Plaintiff, vs. R A Y M O N D EDELMAN, sued in both h i s individual and official c a p a c i tie s ; U N K N O W N NOORDHOCK, C o r p o r a l , sued in both his in d i v id u a l and official capacities; C A L V I N HAYWOOD, sued in both h i s individual and official c a p a c it ie s ; and U N K N O W N PIPER, Sergeant, sued in both his individual and official ca p a citie s, Defendants. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) 4 :0 6 C V 3 0 6 5
M E M O R A N D U M OPINION A N D ORDER
P l a i n t i ff , Tyrell Knight, filed a § 1983 claim against defendants, in both t h e i r individual and official capacities, alleging that they used unnecessary f o r c e on him, resulting in corporal, cruel, and unusual punishment in v io la t io n of the Eighth Amendment. More specifically, Knight alleged that d e f e n d a n t s yanked hard on the come-along chain (come-along) 1 causing him t o fall to the ground, flipped him over on his stomach, attempted to suffocate
A come-along is a set of handcuffs connected to a chain, which is a p p r o x i m a t e l y five feet long. There are two rings hooked to the chain, one chain is about 18 inches from the handcuffs and one chain is about 5 inches from the h a n d c u f fs . The purpose of a come-along is to control an inmate's movements.
h im , and slammed his head against the cement floor. Defendants deny t h e s e allegations. The one-day court trial commenced on Tuesday, M a r c h 28, 2009, in Omaha, Nebraska. 2 Knight and his attorney, Jeremy J o r g e n s o n , were present at the trial. Linda Willard and Amie Larson from t h e Nebraska Attorney General's Office were also present during the one-day c o u r t trial. Knight, Caseworker Raymond Edelman, Sergeant Troy Piper, C o r p o r a l Brandon Noordhoek, and Randy Crosby testified during the trial. FINDINGS OF FACTS The court finds the following facts have been proven by a p r e p o n d e r a n c e of the evidence: T h is case arises out of an incident that occurred in February 2006, at t h e Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP). At that time, Knight was an inmate w it h in the custody and control of the Nebraska Department of Correctional S e r v i ce s (NDCS) and was incarcerated in the Control Unit, a higher security u n it , at the NSP. Defendant Edelman was a caseworker for NDCS at the N S P ; defendant Noordhoek was a corporal for NDCS at the NSP; defendant P i p e r was a sergeant for NDCS at the NSP; and defendant Calvin Haywood w a s a case manager for NDCS at the NSP.
Over two years after filing his complaint, Knight filed a motion r e q u e s t in g a jury trial. The court found that Knight's demand for a jury trial w a s over one year past the time limit for demanding a jury trial and, as a result, d e n i e d Knight's demand for a jury trial.
O n February 23, 2006, Knight was out of his cell for a routine shower. After Knight completed his shower, Sergeant Piper and Corporal Noordhoek a t t e m p t e d to handcuff Knight so they could take Knight back to his cell. Knight refused to come to the gate to be restrained, was uncooperative, and b e g a n arguing with Sergeant Piper. Knight was telling Sergeant Piper and C o r p o r a l Noordhoek about the cyst on his face and asked them for clean sheets. A t the time, Edelman was running the lever control box. Haywood a r r iv e d at the lever control box and Edelman, on his own initiative, retrieved a come-along and approached Sergeant Piper, Corporal Noordhoek, and K n ig h t . When Edelman stepped toward Knight with the come-along, Knight v o lu n ta r ily stepped forward and was handcuffed by Sergeant Piper. Sergeant P i p e r also secured the come-along. Corporal Noordhoek put leg irons on K n ig h t . Subsequently, Haywood opened the gallery gate, which allowed the s t a f f members to escort Knight back to his cell. Knight was cooperative d u r i n g this process. Sergeant Piper, Corporal Noordhoek, and Edelman started to escort K n i g h t back to his cell.3 During the escort down the gallery, Knight had on l e g irons, handcuffs, and a come-along that was attached to the handcuffs.
A normal escort requires two staff. But if an inmate is difficult, the e s c o r t usually requires three staff.
W h ile escorting Knight, Edelman was on Knight's left side. Sergeant Piper w a s right behind Edelman on the left side of Knight. Corporal Noordhoek w a s on the right side of Knight and to the right of Sergeant Piper. A s they were walking down the gallery, Knight started walking slowly a n d Edelman told Knight that he needed to continue walking. At some point d u r i n g the escort to his cell, Knight planted his feet and raised his arms, w h i c h pulled the come-along and caused one of the come-along chains to fall o u t of Edelman's hands. Responding to this situation, Sergeant Piper and C o r p o r a l Noordhoek immediately took Knight to the wall and to the floor. To a c c o m p lis h this take down, Sergeant Piper took Knight's upper left arm and C o r p o r a l Noordhoek took Knight's upper right arm. Knight resisted the take d ow n . O n c e on the ground, Corporal Noordhoek was in charge of securing K n i g h t 's right arm and Edelman was in charge of securing Knight's left arm. While Knight was secured on the ground, Edelman held Knight's jump suit 4 b e t w e e n himself and Knight because he thought Knight was going to spit. Edelman, Corporal Noordhoek, and Sergeant Piper kept Knight secured to t h e floor until the emergency response team arrived. When the emergency r e s p o n s e team arrived, Edelman and Sergeant Piper assisted in handcuffing
During the escort, Knight was carrying his jump suit because he had just co m p le ted his routine shower.
K n ig h t 's hands behind his back. After they got the handcuffs situated, the e v e n t s were videotaped and Corporal Noordhoek and Sergeant Sully escorted K n i g h t to the bull pen area to be checked by medical personnel. Knight was in a state of paranoia and was dizzy. Knight had a scar on his eyebrow and a s c a r on his knee. Additionally, the incident has caused him to have n i g h t m a r e s at night and to wake up in the middle of the night sweating. After the medical personnel checked Knight, Corporal Noordhoek assisted in t a k i n g Knight back to his cell. D IS C U S S IO N T h e Eighth Amendment protects inmates from the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain by correctional officers, regardless of whether an in m a te suffers serious injury as a result. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 , 112 S. Ct. 995, 1000, 117 L. Ed. 2d 156 (1992). Officers do not violate the E ig h t h Amendment when they use force reasonably "in a good-faith effort to m a in t a in or restore discipline." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9, 112 S. Ct. at 999. In e x ce s s iv e force cases, it must be "determine[d] whether the force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously or s a d is t ic a lly to cause harm." Estate of Davis by Ostenfeld v. Delo, 115 F.3d 1 3 8 8 , 1394 (8 th Cir. 1997). See also Irving v. Dormire, 519 F.3d 441, 449 (8 th C ir . 2008). "Whether a situation justifies the use of force to maintain or r e s t o r e discipline is a fact specific issue that turns on the circumstances of
t h e individual case or the particular prison setting." Johnson v. Blaukat, 4 5 3 F.3d 1108, 1113 (8 th Cir. 2006). Factors for consideration in deciding w h e t h e r a particular use of force was reasonable are whether there was an o b je c t iv e need for force, the relationship between any such need and the a m o u n t of force used, the threat reasonably perceived by the correctional o ffic e r s , any efforts by the officers to temper the severity of their forceful r e s p o n s e , and the extent of the inmate's injury. See Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7, 1 1 2 S. Ct. at 999. I. D e fe n d a n t s Sergeant Piper, Corporal Noordhoek, and Haywood D u r in g the trial, after Knight finished presenting his evidence, d e fe n d a n ts moved to dismiss the action against them. The court ordered ju d g m e n t in favor of defendants Sergeant Piper, Corporal Noordhoek, and Haywood. With regards to Sergeant Piper and Corporal Noordhoek, Knight t e s t i fie d that when they took him down, they were doing their job. In fact, K n i g h t commended them on doing an excellent job in relation to the take d o w n . With regards to Haywood, Knight claimed that Haywood should have c o m e down and helped him when the other staff were forceful with him. But K n ig h t testified that Haywood was running the gates and had to stay at the g a t e operator station. As such, Haywood was not able to assist Knight and K n i g h t was aware of this. Accordingly, the court granted judgment in favor o f these defendants after Knight rested his case because even when viewing
t h e evidence in the light most favorable to Knight, Knight had not submitted a n y evidence to show liability on the part of these three defendants. II. D e f e n d a n t Edelman T h e only remaining issue before the court is whether Edelman used e x c e s s iv e force when escorting Knight back to his cell, resulting in Knight's i n j u r i e s . Based on the court's factual findings, Edelman did not engage in e x c e s s iv e force with regard to Knight. Instead, Knight planted his feet and lift e d his arms, which caused one of the come-along chains to fall from Edelman's hand. After Sergeant Piper and Corporal Noordhoek took down K n i g h t , Edelman assisted in restraining Knight to the ground and held K n ig h t 's jump suit between himself and Knight while they waited for the e m e r g e n c y response team to arrive. As such, the facts of this case do not s u p p o r t a finding that Edelman's behavior rose to the level of excessive force. E v e n if Edelman pulled Knight with the come-along during the escort, t r ie d to put Knight's jump suit into his mouth, and hit Knight's head against t h e floor, as Knight alleges, the court finds that Edelman did not use e x c e s s i v e force. Rather, Edelman engaged in a good faith effort to maintain d is c ip lin e by escorting Knight back to his cell in an orderly fashion, keeping K n ig h t secure, and preventing Knight from engaging in inappropriate b e h a v i o r towards staff.
W h i le maintaining discipline, Edelman used a reasonable amount of fo r c e . First, there was an objective need for force because Knight began w a l k i n g slowly and refused to keep a normal pace. As Knight slowed down, Edelman instructed Knight to walk faster but Knight refused. In order for E d e l m a n to properly escort Knight to his cell, Knight needed to keep a n o r m a l pace but Knight refused to do so. After Knight was taken down, it w a s necessary for Edelman to keep Knight secure and to prevent him from s p it t in g on staff. Second, the relationship between the need for force and the a m o u n t of force used was proportionate. The need for force was minimal, a n d Edelman used a minimal amount of force. Third, Edelman reasonably p e r c e iv e d Knight's behavior as a threat. Knight, who was secured in the C o n t r o l Unit, a higher security unit, had past behavioral issues and had b e e n acting out prior to the escort. Further, Knight was not following the d i r e c t io n s of Edelman. Fourth, Edelman attempted to alleviate the need to u s e force by ordering Knight to walk at a normal pace. But such efforts were u n s u c c e s s f u l . Fifth and finally, Knight's injuries were not extremely serious. While Knight does have a scar on his eyebrow and knee and continues to h a v e nightmares about the incident, such injuries did not require extensive m e d ic a l treatment. At trial, Knight was able to stand, sit and walk without p a i n and was mentally capable of testifying about the alleged incident. Accordingly, the court finds that even if Edelman pulled Knight with the
c o m e - a lo n g , tried to put a jump suit into Knight's mouth, and hit Knight's h e a d against the ground, Edelman did not engage in excessive force. A c c o r d i n g ly , it is hereby ORDERED that judgment be entered in favor of defendants Sergeant P ip e r , Corporal Noordhoek, Haywood, and Edelman. D a t e d July 28, 2009. BY THE COURT:
/s/ Karen E. Schreier
K A R E N E. SCHREIER U N I T E D STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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