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Sublett v. Delaney

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

November 21, 2017

DAMIEN SUBLETT
v.
LAURA DELANEY & KACI SIMMONS

          JURY INSTRUCTIONS

         INTRODUCTION

         Members of the jury, it is now time for me to instruct you about the law that you must follow in deciding this case. I will start by explaining your duties and the general rules that apply in every civil case. Then I will explain the elements, or parts, of the claims in question.

         You have two main duties as a juror: The first is to decide what the facts are from the evidence that you saw and heard here in Court. Deciding what the facts are is your job-not mine. Nothing that I have said or done during this trial was meant to influence your decision about the facts in any way.

         Your second duty is to take the law that I give you and to apply it to the facts. It is my job to instruct you about the law, and you are bound by the oath you took at the beginning of the trial to follow the instructions that I give you, even if you personally disagree with them. This includes the instructions that I gave you during the trial and these instructions now. All of the instructions are important, and you should consider them together as a whole.

         The lawyers may have talked about the law during their arguments. But if what they said is different from what I say, you must follow what I say. What I say about the law controls.

         Perform these duties fairly. Do not let any bias, sympathy, or prejudice that you may feel toward one side or the other influence your decision in any way. The law does not permit you to be governed by sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion. All parties expect that you will carefully and impartially consider all of the evidence, follow the law as I give it to you, and reach a just verdict, regardless of the consequences.

         You should consider and decide this case as a dispute between persons of equal standing in the community, of equal worth, and holding the same or similar stations in life. All persons stand equal before the law and are to be treated as equals.

         You are to consider only the evidence in the case. Unless you are otherwise instructed, the evidence in the case consists of the sworn testimony of the witnesses regardless of who called the witness, all exhibits received in evidence regardless of who may have produced them, and all facts and events that may have been admitted or stipulated to. Statements and arguments by lawyers are not evidence. The lawyers are not witnesses. What they have said in their opening statement, closing arguments, and at other times is intended to help you understand the evidence, but it is not evidence.

         Another part of your job as jurors is to decide how credible, or believable, each witness was. This is your job, not mine. It is up to you to decide if a witness's testimony was believable and how much weight you think it deserves. You are free to believe everything that a witness said, or only part of it, or none of it at all. But you should act reasonably and carefully in making these decisions.

         You are required to evaluate the testimony of a corrections officer as you would the testimony of any other witness. No special weight may be given to his or her testimony because he or she is a corrections officer.

         You have heard the testimony of several witnesses, including Damien Sublett, the Plaintiff in this case. You have also heard that before this trial, the Plaintiff, as well as one of his witnesses, Michael Cooper, had been convicted of crimes. The earlier convictions were brought to your attention only as one way of helping you decide how believable their testimony was. Do not use it for any other purpose. It is not evidence of anything else. You may consider other things that you think shed some light on the witness's believability. Use your common sense and your everyday experience in dealing with other people, and then decide what testimony you believe and how much weight you think it deserves. The weight of the evidence does not necessarily depend upon the number of witnesses who testify for either side.

         INSTRUCTION NO. 1

         Burden of Proof

         The Plaintiff has the burden of proving his case by what is called a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the Plaintiff has to produce evidence that, considered in light of all the facts, leads you to believe that what the Plaintiff claims is more likely true than not. The term "preponderance of the evidence" does not, of course, require proof to an absolute certainty, since proof to an absolute certainty is seldom possible in any case.

         In determining whether any fact in issue has been established by a preponderance of the evidence in the case, you may-unless otherwise instructed-consider the testimony of all witnesses, regardless of who may have called them, and all exhibits received into evidence, regardless of who may have produced them.

         You may have heard of the term "proof beyond a reasonable doubt." That is a stricter standard applicable in criminal cases. It does not apply in civil cases, such as this one. Therefore, you should disregard it.

         INSTRUCTION NO. 2

         Multiple Defendants

         Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, before I instruct you as to the law in this case, I want to point out something about having multiple defendants in one case. As you have heard and seen during this trial, there are two defendants in this case. Each one has been accused by the plaintiff of something different. It is crucial that you, the jury, give separate consideration to each claim and each party in this case. Although there are two defendants, it does not follow that if one is liable, the other is liable.

         In this case, the Plaintiff has one claim against Defendant Laura Delaney, and that is for retaliation in violation of the Plaintiffs First Amendment rights. The Plaintiff also only has one claim against Defendant Kaci Simmons, and that is for an invasion of bodily privacy in violation of the Fourth Amendment. I will discuss the elements, or parts, of these claims below, but it is important for you to keep these incidents and claims separate, and to apply them only to the Defendant against whom the Plaintiff has brought that individual claim.

         INSTRUCTION NO. 3

         Other Acts of Plaintiff

         You have heard testimony that, in the past, the Plaintiff has masturbated and exposed himself while incarcerated. If you find that the Plaintiff did those acts, you can consider that evidence only as it relates to two things. First, whether the Plaintiff engaged in this activity with a motive, intent, or plan to remain in, or be moved to, segregation units or protective custody. Second, whether the Plaintiff engaged in this activity with a motive, intent, or plan to provide him with the opportunity to file Prison Rape Elimination Act ("PREA") Claims or grievances against prison staff.

         Remember that the issues in this case revolve around two specific incidents: the Plaintiffs interaction with Defendant Delaney on November 10, 2015 while she was making her rounds on the Plaintiffs cell unit, and the Plaintiffs interaction with Defendant Simmons on December 16, 2015 during her medication rounds. Do not return a verdict based upon the past incidents you have heard about. Instead, reach your verdict based only upon the evidence proffered regarding the two above-referenced incidents.

         INSTRUCTION NO. 4

         Retaliation Claim against Defendant Laura Delaney

         I am now going to instruct you as to the law regarding Plaintiff Damien Sublett's claim against Defendant Laura Delaney:

         The Plaintiff claims that Defendant Delaney violated his constitutional rights under the First Amendment. More specifically, the Plaintiff claims that Defendant Delaney filed a disciplinary report form indicating that she had observed the Plaintiff engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior in retaliation for the Plaintiffs decision to exercise his First Amendment right by filing a lawsuit against another corrections officer, Marlene Sheets. As a result of Defendant Delaney's actions, the Plaintiff claims that he suffered injury for which he now seeks damages. Defendant Delaney denies that any of her actions taken during the time in question violated the Plaintiffs constitutional rights.

         Section 1983, the federal civil rights statute under which the Plaintiff sues, provides that a person may seek relief in this Court by way of damages against any person who, under color of state law, subjects such person to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

         In order to prove his claim under this statute, the Plaintiff must establish by a preponderance of the evidence each of the following elements:

1. That Defendant Delaney acted under color of state law, as defined and explained in Instruction No. 5; and
2. That Defendant Delaney deprived the Plaintiff of a federal constitutional right, as defined and explained in Instruction No. 6, by retaliating against the Plaintiff for filing a lawsuit against another prison official.

         INSTRUCTION NO. 5

         "Under color of state law" means under the pretense of law. A corrections officer's acts while performing her official duties are done "under color" of state law whether those acts are in line with her authority or overstep such authority. A corrections officer acts "under color of state law" even if she misuses the power she possesses by virtue of a state law or because she is clothed with the authority of state law.

         An officer's acts that are done in pursuit of purely personal objectives without using or misusing her authority granted by the state are not acts done "under color of state law." A nurse's acts while performing her official duties as an employee for Correct Care Solutions while working at the Kentucky State Penitentiary are done "under color of state law" whether those acts are in line with her authority or overstep such authority. A nurse acts "under color of state law" even if she misuses the power she possesses by virtue of a state law or because she is clothed with the authority of state law.

         INSTRUCTION NO. 6

         In this case, the Plaintiff claims that Defendant Delaney deprived him of his rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

         Specifically, the Plaintiff claims that Defendant Delaney violated his rights by retaliating against the Plaintiff for filing a ...


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