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WILSON v. PHILADELPHIA DETENTION CTR.

October 9, 1997

JERRY WILSON
v.
PHILADELPHIA DETENTION CENTER, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHAPIRO

 Norma L. Shapiro, J.

 October 9, 1997

 Plaintiff Jerry Wilson ("Wilson") brought this action against defendants, officials at the Philadelphia Detention Center (the "Center"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Wilson alleged that Sergeant Adrian Christmas ("Sgt. Christmas"), Correctional Officer William Gill ("C.O. Gill"), Correctional Officer William Quigley ("C.O. Quigley") and Correctional Officer Gerard Nolan ("C.O. Nolan") used excessive force against him. He also claimed that Major George Peale ("Maj. Peale"), Lieutenant Bernadette MacDonald ("Lt. MacDonald") and social worker Carolyn Harrell-Reid ("Harrell-Reid"), all members of the prison's disciplinary review board, placed him in segregation without a hearing in violation of his procedural due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

 At trial, the jury returned a verdict on the excessive force charge in favor of Sgt. Christmas, C.O. Gill and C.O. Quigley, and against C.O. Nolan, and on the procedural due process claim in favor of Lt. MacDonald and against Maj. Peale and Harrell-Reid.

 The jury awarded Wilson compensatory damages in the amount of $ 3,500 against C.O. Nolan, Maj. Peale and Harrell-Reid, jointly and severally. The jury awarded Wilson punitive damages against C.O. Nolan in the amount of $ 1, against Maj. Peale in the amount of $ 5,000 and against Harrell-Reid in the amount of $ 5,000.

 Defendants Maj. Peale and Harrell-Reid filed a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, for a new trial or for remittitur. Defendant C.O. Nolan has filed a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial. For the reasons stated below, their motions will be denied.

 FACTS

 Wilson was a federal prisoner convicted of drug and weapons violations. He was housed in Section 304 of G-Dorm at the Center while awaiting sentencing. Wilson shared a cell with Paul Murphy ("Murphy"). See N.T. (7/8/97) at 114-15. On August 7, 1994, there was a "shakedown" *fn1" of Section 304 of G-Dorm; inmates' property was scattered about the Section. See id. at 116. The prison authorities had put Wilson's legal mail, photographs and other personal effects on Murphy's bed. Murphy reacted violently to the presence of Wilson's effects on his bed, and a fight ensued. See id. at 117-18.

 Several correctional officers, including Sgt. Christmas, C.O. Gill and C.O. Quigley, went to Section 304 to restore order. C.O. Gill and C.O. Quigley separated Wilson and Murphy. Sgt. Christmas then ordered the officers to remove Wilson from the area. See id. at 124-25. Sgt. Christmas, C.O. Gill and C.O. Quigley testified Wilson refused to leave his cell area. See N.T. (7/9/97) at 28-29, 55-59, 80. Wilson denied resisting the officers and stated he was only trying to safeguard his personal property before leaving. See N.T. (7/8/97) at 122-25.

 When the officers removed Wilson from his cell, C.O. Nolan, waiting in the hallway, handcuffed Wilson and led him out of the Section. C.O. Nolan punched Wilson twice in the back with his fist. See id. at 133-35. C.O. Nolan led Wilson to a temporary holding area known as "the bench." See N.T. (7/9/97) at 100-01. Wilson remained there for over an hour before he was taken to the medical wing of the Center. See N.T. (7/8/97) at 137-38.

 Shortly thereafter, Lt. MacDonald ordered that Wilson be placed in segregation on "B" block, pending a disciplinary hearing. See N.T. (7/9/97) at 8. Prison authorities charged Wilson with four infractions: 1) fighting with an inmate named Kareem Darby ("Darby"); *fn2" 2) disobeying an order; 3) threatening another inmate; and 4) disturbing other inmates/correctional officers.

 The next day, Lieutenant Mary Padilla ("Lt. Padilla") reviewed the charges against Wilson and kept him in segregation; Lt. Padilla described this detention as "punitive segregation." N.T. (7/8/97) at 180. Lt. Padilla gave Wilson notification of the charges filed against him.

 Maj. Peale admitted prison regulations required a disciplinary hearing for inmates charged with prison infractions within three days after the charges were filed, unless the prisoner was unavailable, requested a continuance or the incident occurred on the day prior to a weekend. *fn3" See N.T. (7/9/97) at 167-70.

 Defendants testified at trial that Wilson appeared before a three-person disciplinary committee on August 10, 1997, within the three-day period. Darby's disciplinary hearing scheduled for August 10, 1994, was continued because he was still hospitalized, and Maj. Peale assumed that Wilson must have had a hearing on the same day that was continued for the same reason. See id. at 153. There was no documentation of this alleged hearing, although there were records of Wilson's subsequent hearings. See id. at 152, 157-58, 162-63.

 The board held a disciplinary hearing for Murphy, the inmate with whom Wilson fought, on August 10, 1994. The board dismissed the charges against Murphy and released him from segregation the same day. The board should have been aware at that point that Wilson fought with Murphy, not Darby.

 Wilson testified the disciplinary board did not see him until August 12, 1994. See N.T. (7/8/97) at 173. Neither Maj. Peale nor Harrell-Reid acknowledged the prison's violation of the three-day rule at the August 12th hearing. Maj. Peale chaired the disciplinary hearings, and he testified it was his responsibility to "make sure that the hearing is run properly" and scheduled within the three-day period. See N.T. (7/9/97) at 11-12. Harrell-Reid testified that her duty as a member of the disciplinary board was to "point out any inconsistencies" with procedure, such as when "a person hasn't had their hearing on a timely basis." Id. at 9-10.

 Wilson was brought up from segregation on "B" block to "the bench" on August 15th for another hearing before the board. Wilson sat outside the hearing room; he never went inside. See id. at 149-50. After a few minutes, the correctional officer informed him the hearing had been continued and led him back to segregation on "B" block. See id. at 150. Maj. Peale testified the hearing was continued because Darby was still hospitalized. See N.T. (7/9/97) at 155.

 Wilson had his last hearing before the disciplinary board on August 17, 1994. The board found Wilson "not guilty" on all four counts, including the fighting charge. *fn4" Later that night Wilson returned to general prison population. See N.T. (7/8/97) at 152-53.

 Trial commenced on July 7, 1997. Defendants' motions for judgment as a matter of law at the close of plaintiff's case and at the ...


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