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Martin v. Benson

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

January 12, 2017

BENSON Lt., et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff Robert Michael Martin, an inmate at the New Castle Correctional Facility, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that while he was a pretrial detainee at the Hamilton County Jail (the Jail), defendant Jail Officials Lt. Benson, Sgt. Hoggard, Sgt. Lacey, Officer Carroll, and Officer Scherer failed to protect him from being assaulted by his cellmate in violation of his civil rights. Martin also asserts a state law negligence claim based on these allegations. The defendants have moved for summary judgment and the plaintiff has responded. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment [dkt 48] is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if 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.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Hemsworth v., Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). However, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490. Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).

         II. Facts

         Martin's claims center on his booking and classification at the Jail, his expressed fear that he was at risk of assault because of the charges against him, the classification of his cellmate and assailant Shawn Williams, and the alleged actions and inactions of the defendants in monitoring his cell at the time of the assault.

         A. Martin's Booking into the Jail

         Martin was booked into the Jail on or about September 14, 2013, after being charged with rape. When an inmate is booked, the Jail uses a computer generated classification questionnaire to determine whether an inmate will be classified as minimum, medium, or maximum. The goal of the classification system is to provide for the safety and protection of all Jail detainees and inmates by “housing like kind offenders together to the extent possible.” To complete the classification questionnaire, information relating to a detainee's criminal history is obtained from a national database and a state database, as well as from a fingerprint return. Questions are also answered regarding whether there are any holds for the inmate, the inmate's disciplinary history (with the focus being on when given incidents occurred, whether a pattern exists, and whether the inmate was sanctioned) and the inmate's residency. After the initial classification is completed, the initial classification determination is reviewed as soon as possible. Because he was booked on a B felony rape charge, Martin was classified as “high medium.”

         B. Martin's Placement in and Removal from Protective Custody

         Soon after he was booked into the Jail, Martin was placed in protective custody after he mistakenly told one of his cellmates (inmate Kercsmer) that he was accused of a sex crime, the cellmate provided this information to multiple other inmates, and Martin was allegedly threatened by other inmates while he was in the Jail's day room. Martin was placed in protective custody because he believed he was in danger due to his having told Kercsmer about his being charged with a sex crime.

         On September 20, 2013, Martin was removed from protective custody by defendant Sgt. Debra Hoggard. The parties dispute whether Martin requested to be removed from protective custody. The defendants assert that inmates are removed from protective custody only upon request while Martin states that he was taken out of protective custody “under duress.” Martin does not elaborate on the meaning of “under duress, ” except to that he “felt unsafe being in the general population.” Martin also states that when he was removed from protective custody, Sgt. Hoggard told him to “lie about [his] charges or learn to fight.” This is the only alleged interaction between Sgt. Hoggard and Martin.

         After he was removed from protective custody, Martin was moved from cell block D to cell C-3 in cell block C.

         C. Martin's Fear of Assault

         The parties dispute whether Martin expressed his fear of assault to the defendants. According to Martin, before he was assaulted on October 2, 2013, he spoke with Sgt. Lacey and informed her that “he was in fear of being attacked by the next person the Jail put in the cell with him.” Martin told Sgt. Lacey that problems would be prevented if she would move inmate Ronnie Lemon, who had similar charges pending against him and was Martin's friend, into Martin's cell. Sgt. Lacey responded by telling him that he would deal with whoever she put in his cell, that the Jail cannot move friends in together, and that he should not be a cry baby and should grow up. Sgt. Lacey asserts that she does not remember any interactions with Martin.

         D. The Placement of Williams with Martin and the Assault

         On October 2, 2013, Shawn Williams entered the Jail on a Community Corrections hold related to a non-violent D felony auto case. Book-In Sergeant Stinson classified Williams as high medium because he had a prior charge involving violence. Williams did not have any other holds and the disciplinary history information which was then available to Sgt. Stinson on the Jail's computer system did not show that Williams had been sanctioned by the Disciplinary Hearing Board for a violent offense. While the computer records did not reflect it, Williams did have a previous history of violence at the Jail. Approximately four years before the incidents in this case, Williams was involved in three fights at the Jail. Although the incident reports indicate that Williams and other inmates were sent to the Disciplinary Hearing Board following these 2009 incidents, the reports do not indicate what if any findings were made.

         The night Williams entered the Jail, between 8:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., Sgt. Lacey placed Williams in Martin's cell. Sgt. Lacey was not familiar with Martin or Williams before the assault. She did not know the charges pending against Martin and she does not recall any conversations she may have had with Williams or with the other officers about Martin before the assault. She also does not recall taking any action that involved placing Williams and Martin together in a cell, and she was not aware of Williams having previously been involved in a violent incident prior to his assault of Martin.

         E. The Assault on Martin

         After Williams entered Martin's cell, the two introduced themselves and “there was no problem” until around 12:30 to 1:00 a.m. when Williams covered the two-way call box in their cell with deodorant stickers and covered the cell door window with toilet paper. Approximately ten minutes later, Williams climbed up onto his top bunk and began a conversation ...

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