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Smith v. Howard

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 31, 2015

JANARIOUS SMITH, (AIS# 268812), Plaintiff,
v.
RONZELLA HOWARD, et al., Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

BERT W. MILLING, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, an Alabama prison inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis filed a Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action was referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.2(c)(4), and is now before the undersigned on the motion for summary judgment of Defendants, Ronzella Howard, Dexter Brown, and Sharon Langham. For the reasons stated below, it is recommended that the motion for summary judgment of Defendants be granted and that Plaintiff's action against these Defendants be dismissed with prejudice.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND.

Plaintiff Smith is currently serving a 21-year sentence for robbery and is within the custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections. (Doc. 1 at 6). Since the inception of his sentence he has been imprisoned at multiple state facilities, including G.K. Fountain Correctional Center, Holman Correctional Facility, and St. Clair Correctional Facility. (Doc. 25-7 at 3-5). Smith brings this suit against the defendants for failing to protect him from an alleged assault by another inmate that occurred while incarcerated at Holman Correctional Facility ("Holman"), a state maximum security prison, on April 30, 2014. (Doc. 1 at 8-10).

While imprisoned at Holman, Smith was consistently held in the Segregated Housing Unit rather than general population due to poor behavior.[1] (Doc. 1 at 8, Doc. 25 at 3-4). The Segregation Unit at Holman is comprised of two facilities: 1) the segregation annex (a three tier building which holds units K, L, M) and 2) the Q-side (which holds unit Q). (Doc. 1 at 8; Doc. 25 at 4; Doc. 25-3 at 2). The Q-side of the segregation unit is located approximately sixty yards east of the segregation annex and is used for as a holding unit for processing inmates into segregation and for holding inmates removed from the segregation annex due to excessive negative behavior or maintenance issues. (Doc. 25-3 at 1). Q-side is a two-tier facility with fourteen single-man cells on each tier. (Doc. 25-3 at 2).

On April 24, 2014, Smith was moved from the segregation annex to Q-side, [2] and the following day Smith's validated enemy, [3] Terrance Mosley, was also transferred to Q-side.[4] Mosley was placed in cell 16, located on the top tier of unit Q, while Smith was housed in cell 2, located on the bottom tier of unit Q. (Doc. 25 at 4-5). The two inmates were housed alone in single-man cells, secured within barred doors, and located on different tiers of the facility, where entrance to the tiers is obtained only through locked gates which are videoed monitored. (Doc. 25-2 at 2; Doc. 25-3 at 2-3).

Once aware that Mosley was being housed in Q-side with him, Smith claims he informed Lieutenant Langham "that Terrance Mosley was [his] enemy and he'd tried to kill [him] in the past." (Doc. 1 at 8). To the contrary, Defendant Langham avers that Smith told her he did not like inmate Mosley, but never explained why, never mentioned Mosley was his enemy, and never expressed fear for his safety. (Doc. 25-2 at 2-3).

Smith claims, and Defendant Lieutenant Brown affirmed by affidavit, that Smith asked Brown to let Captain Howard know he needed to speak with her. (Doc. 1 at 8-9). Upon conveying this request to Captain Howard, Defendant Brown was instructed by Howard to attempt to handle Smith's concern. (Doc. 25-1 at 1). Due to his meeting with Howard being denied, Smith informed Defendant Brown that "Terrance Mosley was [his] validated enemy and [he] needed to move out the block with him." (Doc. 1 at 9). Brown relayed Smith's concerns to Captain Howard but insisted Smith was safe and should never come in contact with Mosley since the two inmates being located on separate tiers. (Doc. 25-2 at 1). Smith further alleges, and Brown denies, that Defendant Brown told inmate Mosley "he needed to kill" Smith. ( Id.; Doc. 1 at 9).

On April 30, 2014, Smith claims that from his cell he called for an officer but was told there were none available, and "moments later Terrance Mosley snuck up on [him] and grabbed [his] arm. [Mosley] cut [Smith] several times before [Smith] was able to pull away." (Doc. 1 at 9). According to Smith, Mosley then walked away, and, thereafter, Smith overheard Captain Howard speaking with Mosley. ( Id. ). After Mosley was secured in his cell, Smith requested medical treatment, and Officers Owens and Daily responded to his call. ( Id. ). The officers handcuffed Smith and began escorting him to the healthcare unit, but Smith interrupted the transfer and requested to speak with Captain Howard instead of a doctor. ( Id. ). This request was refused, and Smith was returned to his cell where he declined to have his handcuffs removed. ( Id. ). The officers, therefore, left Smith in his cell wearing his handcuffs, but returned shortly and informed Smith that Captain Howard had agreed to meet with him. ( Id. at 10).

During his meeting with Howard, Smith inquired why Mosley was housed in the same unit as he, and according to Smith, Howard maintained she thought the two inmates "would be alright." ( Id. ). Smith was then sent to the healthcare unit and received a body chart that reflected "superficial scratches" on his left chest area and one scratch on his left forearm.[5] (Doc. 25-7 at 10). Following his examination in the healthcare unit, Smith was transferred from Q-side and placed within the segregation unit. (Doc. 1 at 10).

In response to the allegations in Smith's complaint, the defendants produced records from the Alabama Department of Corrections, incident and medical reports related to the complaint allegations, and affidavits from the defendants and other officers with personal knowledge of the details of this action. (Docs. 25, 29). These materials shine a different light on Smith's unsupported allegations, and, notably, Smith has failed to respond to Defendants' statements of events which are as follows:

Officer Burroughs avers by affidavit that on April 30, 2014, at approximately 11:30 am he observed Mosley out of his top tier Q-side cell. (Doc. 25-4 at 1). Mosley came down to the lower tier and stood within the grill gate area and requested to see Captain Howard. ( Id. at 2). However, Mosley never approached the locked gate that gives access to the bottom tier. ( Id. ). Consequently, Mosley never entered into the lower tier where Smith was housed. ( Id. at 1-2). Captain Howard and another officer secured Mosley in handcuffs, escorted him to the shift office, and then Mosley returned to his cell without incident. ( Id. at 1-2).

Officer Owens affirmed by affidavit that at approximately 2:30 p.m. on April 30, Smith reported suffering from chest pains and requested a transfer to the healthcare unit. (Doc. 25-5 at 1). Upon handcuffing Smith with his hands behind his back and removing him from his cell, Smith denied any chest pains and requested instead to speak with Captain Howard. ( Id. ). Officer Owens communicated to Smith that Captain Howard was unavailable at that time, and Smith was returned to his cell. ( Id. at 1-2). Once secured in his cell, he refused to allow the removal of his handcuffs. ( Id. at 2). Approximately 10 minutes later, Defendant Langham and Officer Owens returned to Smith's cell to remove his handcuffs, when they observed Smith was shirtless and had removed his left hand from the cuffs. ( Id. ). The officers also noticed bleeding scratches on the left side of Smith's chest, but no blood was seen on his shirt. ( Id. ). When questioned about the superficial wounds, "Smith responded that an unknown inmate had scratched him with a razor, " but Smith could not explain how he received the cuts while housed alone in a single-man cell, nor would Smith identify the inmate who allegedly attacked him. (Doc. 25-2 at 2; Doc. 25-5 at 2; Doc. 25-7 at 8).

Smith filed this § 1983 action with the Court on June 27, 2014 claiming that Ronzella Howard, as supervisor of the segregation unit, and Dexter Brown and Sharon Langham, as officers who knew he was in danger, failed to protect him from being attacked by inmate Mosley in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 1 at 7). He seeks injunctive and monetary relief in the amount of $20, 000.00.[6] ( Id. ). Defendants answered the suit and filed special reports (docs. 24, 25, 28, 29), which the Court converted to a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 30). Although provided ample opportunity, Smith has failed to respond to defendants' motion for summary judgment.[7] As such, the motion is ripe for consideration.

II. SUMMRY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) ("The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment."); Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158, 1165 (11th Cir. 2009) ("[S]ummary judgment is ...


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