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Vaughn v. Hawkins

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

November 5, 2018



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants', Lt. Hawkins and Officer O'Dell, Second Motion for Summary Judgment (R. 76). Proceeding pro se, Plaintiff, Eddie Vaughn, has responded. (R. 81). Defendants have replied (R. 83), and this matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Second Motion for Summary (R. 76) is DENIED.


         Eddie Vaughn is an inmate at Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP). (R. 1). He is suing Defendants Lt. Hawkins, Officer J. Cureington, Officer O'Dell, and Officer John Doe-all KSP prison officials-in their individual capacities. (R. 1). The Court construes Vaughn as alleging an excessive force claim under the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause and a retaliation claim under the First Amendment. (R. 1; R. 6). The relevant events are disputed.

         Vaughn alleges that on February 26, 2014, O'Dell and Doe woke him between 4:00 and 5:00 AM so that they could shakedown his cell. (R. 1 ID # 4). The Officers cuffed Vaughn's hands behind his back and then, according to Vaughn, destroyed his property. (R. 1 ID # 4). O'Dell and Doe then leave for roughly ten minutes. (R. 1 ID # 4). O'Dell comes back and tells Vaughn that he is going to the hole. (R. 1 ID # 4). At this point Vaughn says he asked to talk to a lieutenant or captain. Vaughn contends that Hawkins then comes to his cell and curses at him while he was having his hands cuffed behind his back. (R. 1 ID # 4). According to Vaughn, Hawkins and O'Dell then twist his arms behind his neck, throw him on the floor, and start kicking him in his right side. (R. 1 ID # 4). By Vaughn's account, Officer Cureington then joins Hawkins and O'Dell and the three of them start dragging him away. (R. 1 ID # 4). As they are dragging him, the three Officer's push Vaughn up against the wall, putting a “hole in the left side of [his] head.” (R. 1 ID # 5). Cureington then allegedly jumps on Vaughn's back and punches him. (R. 1 ID # 5). All three officers, as stated in Vaughn's Complaint, then beat him and carry him away from the other inmates so the inmates would not witness the Defendants beat Vaughn further. (R. 1 ID # 5).

         Vaughn alleges in his verified Complaint that the beating continued once away from the other prisoners. (R. 1 ID # 5). He states that he was stripped down to his shorts and thrown back on the concrete to be kicked and kneed again by the Officers. Vaughn alleges this beating “cause[d] a big hole” in his left knee, lip, and right toe. (R. 1 ID # 5).

         From here, Vaughn alleges that he is dragged to the hole and placed in a restraint chair so tightly he can barely breath. (R. 1 ID # 5). Once in the restraint chair, Vaughn states he is tortured for having urinated and bled on himself while onlookers laugh. (R. 1 ID # 5). Vaughn also alleges that doctors placed sticks in the hole in his head and that from the restraint chair he was dragged up multiple flights of stairs and thrown in a naked cell for three days. (R. 1 ID # 5). Vaughn states that there were witnesses, the incident was on camera, and that his body spoke for itself regarding the beating. (R. 1 ID # 5).

         Before the alleged beating, Vaughn claims that he wrote Warden White a letter in which he complained about officers calling him slave nicknames and harassing him. (R. 1 ID # 6). After the beating, in March of 2014, Vaughn states that Hawkins came to his cell and told him that he “should learn how to spell his name correct[ly]” and that he did not care if Vaughn filed a complaint against him because “that would not be the first time an inmate filed on them for beating on inmates and won[‘]t be the last time either.” (R. 1 ID # 6). Vaughn alleges further that since filling the instant lawsuit, Officer O'Dell has harassed him and told lies that have resulted in him being “thrown in the hole.” (R. 6 ID # 28). Vaughn also alleges that Hawkins has “nigger tattooed on his arm.” (R. 1 ID # 6).

         Defendants' account differs from Vaughn's dramatically. They admit that force was used against Vaughn, but they contend that the force was reasonable and in response to Vaughn's behavior during a routine cell search. (R. 76-1 ID # 485). According to the Defendants, they recovered some contraband after searching Vaughn's cell. (R. 76-1 ID # 479). When Hawkins ordered Vaughn to approach the cell door to be cuffed, Vaughn replied with a disrespectful expletive. (R. 76-1 ID # 485). After eventually being cuffed, Vaughn started yelling these “white boys are killing me” while being escorted down the walk to segregation. (R. 76-1 ID # 480). The yelling woke other inmates on the walk. (R. 76-5 ID # 499). They too began yelling. (R. 76-5 ID # 499). According to the Defendants, Vaughn then started to resist the escort, pulling away from the them. (R. 76-1 ID # 480). To regain control, the Defendants placed Vaughn against the wall. (R. 76-1 ID # 488). While placing Vaughn against the wall, he hit his head on the cell bars, sustaining a cut on his head. (R. ID 76-1 # 488). Vaughn continued to resist and refused to walk on his own, causing Vaughn and the Defendants to fall to the ground at least twice. (R. 76-5 ID # 499). Finally, Vaughn pulled O'Dell's radio microphone off, at which point Hawkins radioed for back up. (R. 76-5 ID # 499). When back up arrived, the Defendants placed Vaughn on the ground. (R. 76-5 ID # 499). Hawkins told Vaughn if he continued to resist, he would be carried to segregation. (R. 76-5 ID # 499). Vaughn stopped resisting. (R. 76-5 ID # 499).

         Before the Court is Defendant's Second Motion for Summary Judgment. (R. 76). Their first was denied by the Honorable Judge Stivers for the Defendants' failure to support their argument with properly authenticated evidence. (R. 44 ID # 354-358). Judge Stivers was also reluctant to grant summary judgment before viewing video evidence alleged by Vaughn to have captured the events occurring on February 26, 2014. (R. 44 ID # 356).

         Since that denial, Defendants have been ordered to produce “any and all video footage pertaining to the claims raised in the instant action, including video footage of Plaintiff's cell extraction and the escort from his cell to the segregation unit.” (R. 43). The Defendants have complied. (R. 45; R 51). Two discs have been filed with the Court. One disc contains video footage from a KSP security camera (KSP Security Footage). The other contains hand-held footage documenting Vaughn's placement in, and removal from, the restraint chair (KSP Handheld Footage). The Hand-Held Footage also documents Vaughn receiving medical attention. Both Discs were filed under seal, and the Court has viewed the video footage.


         Summary judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

         “[N]ot every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact.” Street v. J. C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). The test is whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element in the case. Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996). The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence in support of his position; the plaintiff must present evidence on which the trier of fact could reasonably find for the plaintiff. See Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). The plaintiff may accomplish this by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Mere speculation will not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment; “the mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will ...

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