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Eric Lyons v. Jeffrey Beard

December 29, 2011

ERIC LYONS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Magistrate Judge Carlson)

MEMORANDUM ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Eric Lyons commenced the above-captioned action on March 8, 2007, bringing claims against a number of supervisory officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, as well as several corrections officers stationed at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, where Lyons was formerly incarcerated as an inmate housed in the Special Management Unit. Specifically, Lyons alleged that Defendants were liable for violations of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment after they facilitated or caused him to become engaged in a fight with Anthony Boyking, another inmate in the SMU, a fight he alleges resulted in him suffering physical injuries.*fn1 Lyons also claimed that these officers subjected him to excessive force after they intervened to stop the altercation between the two inmates.

After the majority of the named Defendants, including supervisory officials with the Department of Corrections, were dismissed from this action, the parties engaged in discovery and further litigation. Following this process, Lyons's remaining claims against Defendants Robert Kreider, Edward Ayers, C.O. Simpson, Matthew Yohn, and Sergeant Garhower were tried before a jury between September 26, 2011, and September 29, 2011. As he had throughout this litigation, Lyons proceeded pro se at trial, acting as his own counsel. Following the conclusion of the evidence and argument, and after receiving instructions on the applicable law, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants on all claims. (Doc. 205)

On October 17, 2011, Lyons filed a motion for a new trial, and a motion requesting that he be provided with copies of trial transcripts free of charge. (Docs. 207, 208) Although Lyons represented that he would be filing briefs in support of these motions in accordance with the 14-day limitation imposed by Local Rule 7.5, Lyons failed to do so. Instead, one month later, on November 16, 2011, Lyons filed a motion seeking an extension of time to file briefs in support of the motions. (Doc. 209) The Court granted this motion on November 17, 2011, directing Lyons to file his briefs on or before December 16, 2011. (Doc. 210)

Once again, Lyons failed to file briefs in accordance with the enlarged briefing schedule that he had requested. In an abundance of caution, the Court did not immediately enter an order deeming the motions to be withdrawn, as would typically be permitted under Local Rule 7.5. Instead, the Court waited several additional days before acting, until on December 22, 2011, the Court concluded that Lyons had consciously determined to abandon the two motions. On that day, the Court entered a memorandum order concluding that Lyons's two motions were deemed withdrawn. (Doc. 211)

Remarkably, just hours after the Court had entered this memorandum order, the Clerk of Court received a brief in support of Lyons's motion for a new trial. (Doc. 212) Although the Court finds that the brief is plainly untimely, and that the Court would be within its discretion to stand on its prior ruling that the motion had been deemed withdrawn, we will, in the interest of fairness and caution, consider Lyons's belated arguments and legal support for his request that he be given a second opportunity to try his claims before a jury.

Upon consideration of Lyons's brief, the motion for a new trial will be denied on its merits for the reasons explained briefly below.

II. SUMMARY OF PLAINTIFF'S ARGUMENTS

In his brief, Lyons "raises the following issues for consideration" (Doc. 212, at 2):

1. The jury verdict was wholly against the weight of the evidence presented at trial;

2. The Court abused its discretion to deny Lyons the right to present subpoenaed witness, Anthony Boyking, before the jury for impeachment purposes after Boyking had unequivocally informed the Court that he would not testify at trial, regardless of any sanction the Court might impose as a result of his refusal;

3. The Court's was in error by instructing the jury that they should not infer that Mr. Boyking's refusal to testify as reflecting negatively on either Lyons or the defendants;

4. The Court abused its discretion by allowing Defendants to alter their initial answer to the complaint once they became aware that Plaintiff intended to enter admissions into evidence during trial;

5. The Court abused its discretion by denying Plaintiff leave to have Defendants' initial answers to the complaint entered into evidence;

6. The Court abused its discretion by denying Lyons's objections to counsel's closing arguments, which Lyons believed improperly appealed to the jurors' passion and sympathy by causing them to focus on the Defendants' role as parents, "which was a subliminal affront on Plaintiff's criminal conviction";

7. Defense counsel improperly appealed to the jurors' passion and sympathy for the Defendants' "safety and the dangers they faced being on the job in the SMU was ...


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