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Ray Hensley v. Bossio

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

March 9, 2018

ASHLAND DANNY RAY HENSLEY, Administrator of the Estate of Danny Oscar Hensley, PLAINTIFF,


          Hecry R. Wilhoit, Jr., United States District Judge.

         Winston Churchill observed, "[t]he mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilizations of any country."[1] America's prison population exceeds two million.[2] Overcrowding, understaffing and bureaucratic nonsense are the hallmarks of a prison system where violence and abuse run rampant. To be sure, "nobody promised [inmates] a rose garden." Atiyeh v. Capps, 449 U.S. 1312, 1315 (1981). "[T]he Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons, and prisons ... cannot be free of discomfort." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981). However, the maladies within the prison system manifest themselves in violence, exploitation, rape and murder with what appears to be increasing frequency. In this test, our nation is faltering.

         Danny Oscar Hensley died while he was incarcerated at the Little Sandy Correctional Complex ("LSCC"). At the time of his death, he was twenty-three years old and a mere seven months from being released from prison. Danny Hensley was beaten, possibly raped and strangled to death by another inmate, Randy Bowman.

         At the time of Hensley's murder, Heather Bossio was a Classification and Treatment Officer at LSCC and Holly Finch was a supervisor at LSCC. [Docket No. 25, Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 4-5].

         Plaintiff, Hensley's father and the Administrator of his Estate, contend that prison officials, including Bossio and Finch, failed to protect his son and that their failure resulted in his death. Id. at ¶ 1.

         Before the Court is the Defendants Heather Bossio and Holly Finch's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 19]. The matter has been fully briefed by the parties [Docket Nos. 19-1, 20 and 21]. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court finds that neither Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity and, therefore, their motion will be overruled.


         The facts alleged in the Amended Complaint are as follows: On June 30, 2016, Randy Bowman murdered Hensley. Id. at ¶ 27. At that time, they were housed in the same dorm at LSCC. Id. at ¶ 36. Earlier on that day, Hensley and Bowman went to Defendant Bossio's office to follow up on a request to be cellmates. In her role as a Classification and Treatment Officer, she was responsible for classifying inmates based upon various risk factors which may guide the determination of where the inmates are housed. Id. at ¶ 4

         In seeking a change in Hensley's cell assignment, Bowman and Hensley explained to Bossio that other inmates had harassed Hensley when he lived in a different dorm. Hensley stated that he felt "safer" in his current dorm. Bossio denied the request, explaining that because Bowman was a "high risk abuser, " and Hensley was a "high risk victim, " they would not be housed together. Bossio advised Bowman and Hensley, however, that they could "spend time together." Id. at ¶¶ 39-41.

         Before the murder, Bowman and Hensley entered Bowman's cell on the second floor of the dorm. Id. at ¶ 43. According to the Amended Complaint, a corrections officer, named as "John Doe 1", was approached by Bowman and Hensley before they entered Bowman's cell and that either Bowman or Hensley said something to the corrections officer. Id.

         After Hensley and Bowman entered Bowman's cell, one of them placed a towel over most of the cell door window. The cells in this dorm at LSCC have full doors. The doors have a tall, narrow window, which is the only way for prison officials to look into the cell. Id. at ¶¶ 45-46.

         After one of them covered the cell door window, Bowman and Hensley engaged or attempted to engage in sexual intercourse. Id. at ¶ 50. At some point while they were in Bowman's cell, Bowman physically assaulted Hensley. He caused numerous cuts to Hensley's head and face, and ultimately, Bowman strangled him. Id. at ¶ 53.

         Video surveillance shows that he exited and entered his cell multiple times, after the assault. Id. at ¶ 67. According to the Amended Complaint, Bowman's shirt was visibly stained with Hensley's blood. Id. at ¶ 68.

         Eventually, Bowman told Defendant Derek Maggard, another corrections officer, that an inmate was dead in his cell. In response, Maggard and another corrections officer, Defendant Andrew Hayes, went to Bowman's cell. Id. at ¶ 70. When Maggard and Hayes arrived at the cell, the towel still covered much of the cell door window. Id. at ¶ 71. Hayes looked over the towel and saw Hensley, lying naked, face down on the cell floor. Id. at ¶ 72. Hayes checked Hensley's pulse, but found none. Id. at ¶ 73. Officers transported Hensley to St. Clair Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Id. at ¶ 74.

         The Amended Complaint alleges that certain policies existed at this time at LSCC, prohibiting inmates from entering the cells of enter inmates, covering the cell windows, engaging in sexual intercourse with another inmate and assaulting another inmate. Id. at ¶ ¶ 44, 47, 51 and 52. Defendants do not dispute the existence of these policies.

         Video surveillance shows that after Bowman and Hensley entered Bowman's cell, and after one of them covered most of the cell door window with a towel, a corrections officer, named in the Amended Complaint as "John Doe 2" walked the entirety of the dorm's second floor. Id. at ¶ 55. He walked past each cell, and looked through each cell window. Id. When Defendant Doe 2 approached Bowman's cell, with the towel covering the cell door window, he looked over the top of the towel into the cell. Id. at ¶ 56. Despite LSCC's policy against covering cell door windows, Defendant Doe 2 did not enter Bowman's cell. Id. at ¶ 57.

         According to the Amended Complaint, LSCC officials determined, pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act[3], that Hensley was at a high risk of being sexually victimized by other inmates. Id. at ¶ 29. On numerous occasions while he was incarcerated he requested protective custody and stated he was afraid of other prisoners, but later recanted his statements and refused protective custody. Id. at ¶ 30. On more than one occasion, he told prison officials he had suicidal thoughts. Id. at ¶ 31.

         LSCC officials determined, pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act, that Bowman was at a high risk of sexually abusing other prisoners. Id. at ¶ 33. On numerous occasions, prison officials disciplined Bowman for threatening other inmates and prison employees. Id. at ¶ 34. At the time he murdered Hensley, Bowman was 63 years old. He was serving a 45-year sentence for murdering a person with whom he was incarcerated. Id. at ¶ 32.

         On November 28, 2016, Bowman plead guilty to the murder of Hensley and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Commonwealth of Kentucky ...

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