United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
have heard the testimony of several witnesses, including
Michael Cooper, the Plaintiff in this case. You have also
heard that before this trial, the Plaintiff, as well as
witness Garfield Evans, 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.
Plaintiff has the burden of proving his case against each of
the Defendants 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 trne
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.
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
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.
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 nine defendants in this case.
And while the Plaintiff has only presented two different
legal claims, each one of the Defendants has been accused by
the Plaintiff of something factually different.
crucial that you, the jury, give separate consideration to
each claim and each party in this case. Although there are
nine defendants, it does not follow that if one is liable,
then another is liable, or that all are liable. Conversely,
it does not follow that if one is not liable, then another is
not liable, and so on.
discuss the elements, or parts, of each of the Plaintiffs
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
Nature of a Retaliation Claim
now going to instruct you as to the law regarding the
Plaintiffs First Amendment Retaliation claims. He has filed
separate Retaliation claims against each of the nine
Defendants. I will first explain the law generally, and then
as it applies to the Plaintiffs claims.
42 of the United States Code, Section 1983 is the federal
civil rights statute under which the Plaintiff sues. It
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.
of a First Amendment Retaliation Claim
case, the Plaintiff claims that each of the nine Defendants
deprived him of his rights under the First Amendment to the
United States Constitution by retaliating against him in
response to his engaging in activities protected by the First
Amendment. These Defendants are:
Troy Belt, Jesse Coombs,
Cody Edmonds, Lncas
Fraliex, Skyla Grief,
Timothy Hawkins, Danny
Heggen, George Henson, and
convicted prisoner loses some constitutional rights, such as
the right to liberty, after being convicted of a criminal
offense. But a prisoner keeps other constitutional rights.
One of those retained rights is the First Amendment right of
access to the courts to challenge the lawfulness of their
conviction and the constitutionality of his confinement
constitutional right of access to the courts means that a
prisoner has the right to file claims and other papers with
the prison and with the court. The same holds true with
respect to the grievance-filing process within a prison or
jail. The exercise of these rights, or plan to exercise these
rights, cannot be the basis for a penalty or further
succeed on this claim, the Plaintiff must prove each of the
following facts by a preponderance of the evidence:
1. He was engaged in a constitutionally protected
activity, which includes working on documents for
the purpose of filing an internal grievance, a lawsuit or
accessing the court system;
2. An "adverse action" was taken
against him by someone who acted nnder color of state
3. There is a cansal connection between the
adverse action taken and the Plaintiffs constitutionally
protected activity, meaning that the adverse action taken
against the Plaintiff was motivated at least in part by the
Plaintiffs protected conduct.
mentioned above, a prisoner has a constitutionally protected
right of access to the courts and also has the right to file
claims and other papers with the prison and with the court.
"adverse action" is an action that
would deter a person of ordinary firmness from exercising a
color of state law" means under the pretense of
law. A prison official's or corrections officer's
acts while performing his or her official duties are done
"under color" of state law whether those acts are
in line with his or her authority or overstep such authority.
That individual acts "under color of state law"
even if he or she misuses the power they possess by virtue of
a state law or because he or she is clothed with the
authority of state law. The individual's acts that are
done in pursuit of purely personal objectives without using
or misusing his or her authority granted by the state are not
acts done "under color of state law."
time I will remind you again that you should consider the
three elements above as they pertain to each of the nine
listed Defendants. Consider each of the Plaintiffs claims
Amendment Excessive Use of Force
addition to his claims of First Amendment Retaliation against
all nine Defendants, the Plaintiff has also brought claims of
Excessive Use of Force, in violation of the Eighth Amendment,
against three of those defendants:
Troy Belt, Jesse Coombs,
and Cody Edmonds
the Plaintiff claims that Troy Belt, Jesse Coombs, and Cody
Edmonds deprived him of his rights under the Eighth Amendment
to the United States Constitution. The Constitution
guarantees that every person who is convicted of a crime or a
criminal offense has the right not to be subjected to cruel
and unusual punishment. This includes, of course, the right
not to be assaulted or beaten without legal justification
person may sue in this court for an award of money damages
against anyone who, under color of law, intentionally
violates the person's rights under the United States
succeed on his Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants
Troy Belt, Jesse Coombs and Cody Edmonds,
the Plaintiff must prove each of the following facts by a
preponderance of the evidence:
First, that the Defendant in question acted
Second, that the force used by that
Defendant against the Plaintiff was "excessive,
Third, that the Defendant acted
"nnder color of state law"; and
Fonrth, that the Defendant's conduct
"cansed" the Plaintiffs injuries.
the Plaintiffs claims of Excessive Use of Force against
Defendants Troy Belt, Jesse Coombs, and Cody Edmonds, I would
like to reiterate the rule that the United States
Constitution guarantees the right not to be subjected to
excessive force by a law enforcement or corrections officer
while being detained in custody.
not every push or shove-even if it later seems unnecessary-is
a constitutional violation.
an officer always has the right to use the reasonable force
that is necessary under the circumstances to maintain order
and ensure compliance with jail or prison regulations.
jury must decide whether any force used in this case by
Defendants Troy Belt, Jesse Coombs, and Cody Edmonds,
respectively, was excessive based on whether the force, if
any occurred, was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain
or restore discipline, or instead whether it was applied
maliciously to cause harm.
making that decision you should consider:
(1) the amount of force used in relationship to the need
(2) the motive of each Defendant at the time;
(3) the extent of the injury inflicted; and
(4) any effort made to temper the severity of the force used.
Of course, officers may not maliciously or sadistically use
force to cause harm regardless of the injury to the prisoner.
Color of State Law"
stated before, "under color of state law" means
under the pretense of law. A prison official's or
corrections officer's acts while performing his or her
official duties are done "under color" of state law
whether those acts are in line with his or her authority or
overstep such authority. That individual acts "under
color of state law" even if he or she misuses the power
they possess by virtue of a state law or because he or she is
clothed with the authority of state law. The individual's
acts that are done in pursuit of purely personal objectives
without using or misusing his or her authority granted by the
state are not acts done "under color of state law."
the fourth element, that of "causation,
" a defendant's conduct "causes"
a plaintiffs injuries if the plaintiff would not have been
injured without the defendant's conduct, and the injuries
were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the
find for the Plaintiff against one or more of the Defendants,
then you will next determine from the evidence and award the
Plaintiff such sum of money as will fairly and reasonably
compensate him for his mental and physical pain and
suffering, if any, as you believe from the evidence he has
sustained as a direct result of the deprivation of his
constitutional rights by one or more of the Defendants.
find more than one Defendant liable to the Plaintiff, you
must consider these sums separately, and only as they relate
to the claims the Plaintiff has against each Defendant.
fact that I instruct you on damages should not be taken by
you as indicating one way or the other whether the Plaintiff
is entitled to recover damages. This is entirely for you to
decide. Any damages you award must have a reasonable basis in
the evidence. They need not be mathematically exact but there
must be enough evidence for you to make a reasonable estimate
of damages without speculation or guess work.
find in favor of the Plaintiff against one or more of the
Defendants, but you find the Plaintiffs damages have no
monetary value, then you must return a verdict for the
Plaintiff in the nominal amount of one dollar.
find for the Plaintiff against one or more of the Defendants,
and you awarded compensatory damages or nominal damages under
these Instructions, then you may, in your discretion, award
punitive damages. However, you may only award punitive
damages if you believe that that Defendant's conduct
involved a reckless indifference or disregard for Plaintiffs
constitutional rights, life, or safety.
damages are awarded against a Defendant for the purpose of
punishing the Defendant for misconduct, and deterring him or
her and others from engaging in similar conduct in the
future. If you award punitive damages, they must be fixed
with calm discretion and sound reason, and must never be
awarded, or fixed in amount, because of any sympathy, bias,
or prejudice with respect to any party to the case. If you
decide to award punitive damages, you shall consider the
1. The harm to the Plaintiff as measured by the damages you
have awarded under these Instructions caused by a
Defendant's failure to comply with his or her duties; and
2. The degree, if any, to which you have found from the
evidence that that Defendant's failure to comply with his
or her duties was reprehensible, considering the following:
a. the degree to which the Defendant's conduct evinced an
indifference to or reckless disregard for the health and
safety of others;
b. the degree to which the harm suffered by the Plaintiff was
a result of intentional conduct, or mere accident;
c. the likelihood, at the time of the Defendant's
conduct, that serious harm would arise from it;
d. the degree of the Defendant's awareness of that
likelihood; e. the profitability of the misconduct to the
Defendant; f the duration of the misconduct and any
concealment of it by the Defendant;
g. any actions by the Defendant to remedy the misconduct once
it became known to the Defendant.
the fact that I have instructed you on punitive damages
should not be taken by you as indicating one way or the other
whether the Plaintiff is entitled to recover such damages.
This is entirely for you to decide.
you go back to the jury room, you will discuss the case with
your fellow jurors to reach an agreement if you are able to
do so. The first order of business should be the selection of
a foreperson. That person will preside over your
deliberations and speak for you here in Court.
verdict must be unanimous and based solely on the evidence
and on the law as I have given it to you in these
instructions. You must all agree on any verdict you reach.
you must decide the case for yourself, but you should do so
only after you consider all the evidence, discuss it fully
with each other, and listen to the views of your fellow
be afraid to change your opinion if you think you are wrong.
But do not come to a decision simply because other jurors
think it is right.
case has taken a great deal of time and effort to prepare and
try. There is no reason to think it could be better tried or
that another jury is better qualified to decide it.
Therefore, it is important that you reach a verdict if you
can do so conscientiously. If it looks at some point as if
you may have difficulty in reaching a unanimous verdict, you
should reexamine your position to see whether you have given
careful consideration and sufficient weight to the evidence
that have favorably impressed the jurors who disagree with
you. You should not hesitate to reconsider your views from
time to time and to change them if you think this is
important that you attempt to return a verdict but, of
course, only if each of you can do so after having made his
or her own conscientious determination. Do not surrender an
honest conviction as to the weight and effect of the evidence
simply to reach a verdict one way or the other.
talk to the Marshal or to me or to anyone else, except for
each other, about this case or where each individual juror
stands at any given time. If it becomes necessary during your
deliberations to communicate with me, you may send a note
through the Marshal signed by your foreperson or by one or
more members of the jury. No member of the jury should ever
attempt to communicate with me on anything concerning the
case except by a signed writing or here in open Court. For
example, do not write down or tell anyone that you are split
on your verdict 4-4 or 6-2 one way or another. That should
stay secret until you have finished your deliberations.
have taken notes during the trial on the notepads provided to
you by the Court. That's fine, and you may take these
back with you to the jury room for your deliberations.
However, it is very important to remember that your notes
should be used only as memory aids. You should not give your
notes precedence over your independent recollection of the
have not taken notes, you should rely upon your independent
recollection of the proceeding and you should not be unduly
influenced by the notes of other jurors.
are not entitled to any greater weight than the memory or
impression of each juror as to what the testimony may have
been. Whether you took notes or not, each of you must form
and express your own opinions regarding the facts of the
will notice that we have an official court reporter making a
record of the trial. However, we will not have a typewritten
transcript from the record available for your use in reaching
your decision in this case.
of Verdict Form
prepared Verdict Forms for your use in making your verdict.
After you have reached unanimous agreement on a verdict for
each of the Plaintiffs claims, if you are able to do so, your
foreperson will fill in the forms that have been given to you
and advise the Marshal outside your door that you are ready
to return to the courtroom. After you return to the
courtroom, your foreperson will deliver the completed verdict
forms as directed.
ONE: Do you the jury find from a preponderance of
the evidence that the Plaintiff, Michael Cooper, has
1. that Defendant Troy Belt retaliated against the Plaintiff,
Michael Cooper, in violation of the First Amendment to the
United States Constitution, as defined and explained in
Instruction Nos. 3 and 4?
ANSWERED "YES" TO INTERROGATORY NO. 1(A) ABOVE,
PLEASE CONTINUE TO INTERROGATORY NO. 1(B) ON THE NEXT PAGE.
ANSWERED "NO" TO INTERROGATORY NO. 1(A) ABOVE,
PLEASE CONTINUE TO INTERROGATORY NO. 2(A)
TWO: If you answered "YES" to the question
presented to you on INTERROGATORY 1(A) on the preceding page,
what sum of money do you find from a preponderance of the
evidence to be the total amount of Plaintiff Michael
Cooper's "compensatory damages, " as explained
in Instruction No. 6? If you answered "YES" to the
question presented to you on INTERROGATORY NO. 1(A) on the
preceding page, but you find that Plaintiff Michael Cooper
has no "compensatory damages, " as explained in
Instruction No. 6, then you must award the Plaintiff
"nominal damages, " as explained in Instruction No.
OF HOW YOU ANSWERED INTERROGATORY NO. 1(B), PROCEED TO
THREE: Do you the jury find from a preponderance of the
evidence that the Plaintiff Michael Cooper is entitled to
punitive damages, as discussed in Instruction No. 7?