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Talley v. King

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 4, 2018

C/O R. KING, and C/O ORBASH, Defendants.


          Cynthia Reed Eddy United States Magistrate Judge


         Presently pending is Plaintiff's Motion for New Trial. (ECF No. 115). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the motion is denied.

         II. BACKGROUND [2]

         Because the facts of the case are well known by the parties, the court will only recount the facts necessary for the disposition of the present motion. Plaintiff Quintez Talley (“Talley”), proceeding pro se, is a state prisoner currently confined at SCI-Graterford. He alleges that while incarcerated at SCI-Greene, Defendant Corrections Officer King used excessive force against him and Defendant Corrections Officer Orbash failed to protect him. Talley also asserted claims for due process, equal protection, racial discrimination, retaliation, assault and battery, and mental harm.[3] The court granted in part and denied in part the partial motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants.[4] (ECF No. 47).

         The Plaintiff testified that on the morning of September 16, 2015, Defendants, Corrections Officers Robert King (“King”) and Robert Orbash (“Orbash”), were distributing breakfast trays in the SCI-Greene Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”). They did not give inmate, Patrick Davis, a breakfast tray. After Orbash gave Talley his food tray, Talley took his “food slot hostage” by sticking his arm out the food aperture. At that point, King repeatedly slammed the wicket on Talley's arm while yelling racial epithets at him. According to Talley, Orbash saw the whole thing but failed to intervene.

         Defendants testified that they did not serve a tray to Davis because he failed to show himself in his cell window at meal time. They also testified that after the incident with Talley, they continued to feed the prisoners on the pod. King testified that as he was exiting the pod, Talley's arms were still outside his food aperture and that as he walked by Talley's cell, Talley grabbed him at his waist/belt and attempted to strike him. King gave Talley an oral command to remove his arms from the aperture. King testified that he shut the aperture on Talley's arm several times, in self-defense, in an attempt to free himself from Talley's grasp. He also testified that Talley threw food and coffee and other drink items out of the aperture. Much of the incident was captured on a video that was entered into evidence by both parties and shown to the jury several times as witnesses narrated their version of events. While the video showed the Defendants movements around the pod, the camera was not directly aimed at Talley's cell and the confrontation was not captured on the video. The end of the video also depicted Talley throwing material outside of his aperture and setting the material on fire; however, this portion of the video was ordered redacted by the court and was not shown to the jury.

         Both parties entered another video into evidence showing the Plaintiff in medical triage after the incident. (Plaintiff's Exhibit 2 and Defendants' Exhibit B). The court previewed the video and suggested at the preliminary conference that the strip search of the Plaintiff following the medical examination be redacted from the medical triage video before presenting the video to the jury. All parties agreed and no further redactions were requested from the video. Defendants presented the testimony of RN McAnany, who conducted the medical examination, as well as the Medical Incident/Injury Report and photographs of Plaintiff's injuries. (Defendants' Exhibit D and F). The Report notes that Plaintiff had “superficial abrasions to left elbow; superficial abrasions to right forearm; inmate verbally denied any further injury. . . No. treatment necessary.” Id.

         On October 17, 2017, following the conclusion of a two-day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict for Defendants and, thus necessarily found that Plaintiff had not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendants King used excessive force against Plaintiff on September 16, 2017, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, nor did he prove that Defendant Orbash failed to intervene to prevent the use of excessive force against Plaintiff on that date. Further, the jury found that Defendant King was acting within the scope of his employment as a corrections officer at SCI-Green at the time of the incident with Plaintiff, and he was therefore entitled to qualified immunity as to Plaintiff's tort claims. (ECF No. 110.)

         Plaintiff contends that a new trial is warranted for the following alleged errors:

A. Defendants were allowed to testify regarding their prior military service;
B. Defendants' testimony regarding the Department of Correction's excessive force policy;
C. Plaintiff's statements regarding his mental health in a video which was admitted into evidence on request of both parties;
D. Defendant Orbash's rebuttal testimony regarding whether Plaintiff's witness Davis could see Plaintiff's cell from his cell;
E. The court's ruling sustaining Defendants objection to testimony regarding various forms of restrictive housing;
F. The admission of Plaintiff's Exhibit 3 without certain redactions;
G. The court's instruction to the jury on the affirmative defense of sovereign immunity to Plaintiff's assault and battery claim against Defendant King; and
H. The court's ruling that the testimony of Plaintiff's proposed witness Tonio Rosario was cumulative.

         Finally, Plaintiff requests permission to file a supplement to the present motion in the event the ...

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