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Sixth Circuit allows jail abuse case to go to jury

William Harris sued the City of Circleville and several individual Ohio State Troopers, after he suffered a spinal injury during incarceration.  Harris was initially stopped for speeding, and ultimately arrested when officers claimed to have found an outstanding misdemeanor warrant. He was handcuffed and the jail videotape was running when officers "took him down" for failing to respond to orders to kneel.

 Harris later explained that he was unable to kneel because one of the three officers involved was exerting upward pressure on his cuffed wrists behind his back. The videotape showed no evidence of resistance or unruliness by Harris, and one of the officers acknowledged during testimony that Harris was not resisting.  When they took him down, Harris suffered a spinal cord injury and immediately begged officers for medical attention.  They stripped him to his underwear and dragged him in to the "drunk tank" where he was left crying for help until another jail employee pointed out that he hadn't moved and prevailed on officers to seek medical attention.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the officers were not entitled to summary disposition in response to Harris' 42 USC 1983 claims of excessive force and deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.  It also held that his claim of denial of equal protection and his state law battery claim should go before a jury. The Court also concluded that a jury might reasonably view the surveillance tape and the testimony of the parties and conclude that the actions of the officers were a violation of well-established law...therefore depriving them of immunity for their actions.

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