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Barnes v. Christina

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 21, 2015

JUAN BARNES, Plaintiff,
v.
MARY CHRISTINA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Defendants Mary Christina Wilson and Craig Rowe[1] filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in response to the above-entitled civil rights Complaint. ECF No. 25. Plaintiff opposes the motion. ECF Nos. 27, and 33-36. No hearing is deemed necessary by the court. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014).

Background

Plaintiff Juan Barnes ("Barnes") was at all times relevant to this Complaint, an inmate at the Washington County Detention Center ("WCDC"). He states he was assigned to C-pod, cell 18 on December 5, 2012, when three deputies who were collecting lunch trays came to his cell. Barnes identifies the deputies as Deputy Christina Mary (Deputy Wilson), Deputy Vincent, and another deputy whom he could not identify. He states that Wilson approached his cell and Barnes passed his tray through the door and turned to get the rest of the trash (milk cartons) while holding the slot open with his right hand. Barnes claims that Wilson became angry that he was holding the slot open and slammed the slot on his hand, crushing his hand and wrist. Barnes screamed out in pain and he claims Deputy Vincent yelled, "what are you doing?" Barnes asserts that Wilson called him a "fucking freak" and slammed the door even harder. Barnes claims that he was angry and in pain, but managed to build enough strength to push the door on the slot down with his left hand and pushed it off. Barnes states that as he did so, Wilson jumped back and he admits stating he was "gonna get her skinny ass." Barnes denies mentioning Wilson's race (Caucasian) and alleges she has a "race issue" because she included that erroneous information in her report of the incident. ECF No. 1 at p. 2.

The two male deputies escorted Wilson off of the unit and put in a request for medical attention for Barnes's hand, which was swollen. Barnes asserts that he was not seen for the injury until one week later and at that time "they" determined his hand did not require an x-ray. Barnes claims that he was asked to "sign off" regarding the need for an x-ray and that he was told he may have neuropathy. ECF No. 1 at p. 2.

Barnes claims that Wilson attempted to have the other two deputies "conspire with her to make a false report." He alleges that the two male deputies told him they were not backing up a falsified report. He asserts that the report that was filed does not comply with the WCDC policy requiring all officers present to write reports or the complaining officer to list them as witnesses. He states that Wilson's report is false. ECF No. 1 at pp. 2-3.

Barnes claims that the injury to his hand was done maliciously and in violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He further alleges that he was denied medical care for the injury by the healthcare provider[2] at WCDC which amounted to deliberate indifference to a serious medical need in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Additionally, Barnes asserts that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was denied the right of having letters mailed to him and was limited to having only postcards during his stay at WCDC. He claims that he lost friends and his family did not want to "put business on postcards." ECF No. 1 at pp. 3-4. Barnes asserts that the named Defendants are responsible for the operation of WCDC. Id. at p. 1.

Defendant Wilson summarized the incident in a report stating that "when I took the tray of inmate Juan Barnes... he extended his arm out of the drop box toward my person." ECF No. 25 at Ex. A. She further states that she "quickly tried to close the drop box door but wasn't able to" and that she "ordered him to get his arm back in the cell." Id. Wilson claims that Barnes attempted to grab her through the drop box on two additional occasions, scratching her left wrist in the process. Id. Wilson continued to try to close the door unsuccessfully and finally shut the door after Barnes removed his arm. Id.

The two male deputies referenced in Barnes' complaint are identified by Defendants as Deputies Banzhoff and Vincent. ECF Nos. 25-3 and 25-4. Banzhoff states that he was assigned to hallway security at the time of the incident and he observed Vincent and Wilson collecting meal trays. ECF No. 25-3. At the time of the incident involving Barnes, Banzhoff was at cell C-9 collecting a bag meal and heard a commotion coming from cell C-10. Id. He states that when he looked over "Wilson appeared to have... Barnes... hand stuck between the drop box." Id. He states that Wilson "continued to put pressure on the drop box but Barnes could not move his hand." Id. Banzhoff further states that when Wilson let the drop box go, Barnes "reached his arm out of the drop box twice appearing to try and grab Deputy Wilson." Id. Banzhoff claims that once Barnes' hand was back inside the cell and Wilson was able to secure the drop box, Barnes looked at Wilson and said, "Bitch I will fuck your skinny ass when I get out." Banzhoff then exited the tier along with Vincent and Wilson. Id.

Vincent reported that Wilson unlocked the box, took the tray from Barnes, and Barnes kept his hand in the drop box. Id. at Ex. D. Vincent states that Wilson began closing the box with Barnes' hand still inside it. He states that "Wilson continued to push on the drop box door, with Inmate Barnes hand in there, ordering him to remove his hand." Id. Vincent adds that Wilson "started using both hands to push on the drop box door" and he asked Barnes what he was doing. Id. In response to Vincent's question, Barnes replied "[t]hat bitch closed my hand in the drop box!" Id. Wilson then "let go of the drop box" and Barnes "reached through the open box and swiped at Deputy Wilson." Id. Vincent then ordered Barnes to put his arm back in and Barnes complied. Id. Vincent claims that Barnes remarked to Wilson, after the door was closed, that he was "going to fuck your skinny ass up when I get out of here." Id. When Vincent asked Wilson what happened, Wilson stated, "he tried to grab me through the drop box." Id.

Defendants submit a video recording of the incident taken from a surveillance camera. ECF No. 25 at Ex. F. The video does not include audio and depicts the backs of the deputies involved as they are standing in front of Barnes' cell door. Due to the perspective of the camera angle, it cannot be determined whether Barnes reached through the slot before his hand was shut in the door as Wilson claims. It is clear, however, that Barnes "swiped" at Wilson twice and Barnes admits he did so after Wilson shut his hand in the door. ECF No. 36 at p. 1.

Standard of Review

Summary Judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) which provides that:

The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is ...

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