United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant Pamela
Martin's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 66). Also
pending are several Motions filed by the pro se
Plaintiff. See (Doc. Nos. 65, 77).
se Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, (Doc. No. 17),
passed initial review a claim that Defendant Martin used
excessive force against him, (Doc. No. 18). Defendant Martin
has now filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. No. 66),
that is presently pending before the Court. Plaintiff has
filed a Response and Defendants had the opportunity to reply.
Plaintiff has also filed Notice Motion to Clerk of Court of
Defendants Pamela Martin is Not No. Official State Employee,
(Doc. No. 65), and a Second Request for Production of
Documents, (Doc. No. 77), that are pending consideration.
Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 17)
alleges in the Amended Complaint that Defendant Martin came
to escort Plaintiff from the recreation cell back to his own
cell on October 6, 2017. Plaintiff told Defendant Martin that
he had been asking her for the television remote control ever
since she put him in the recreation cell. She responded that
she had been busy and forgot. Defendant Martin cuffed
Plaintiff's hands in front of his body, removed him from
the cell, and began escorting him while gripping his arm
tightly. Plaintiff told Defendant Martin she was grabbing him
too tightly and to loosen her grip. She did not say anything
and gripped his arm tighter. Plaintiff stopped walking,
looked Defendant Martin in the eyes, and said she is grabbing
him too hard and to loosen up. They started arguing.
Plaintiff was about to continue walking when Defendant Martin
shoved him by the arm and pushed him against the wall.
Defendant Martin said “don't think ‘cause she
a old white lady cause she can still get in it and beat my
ass [meaning she can fight].” (Doc. No. 17 at 5).
Plaintiff, who was still pinned to the wall, started
laughing. Defendant Martin pulled him off the wall, walked
him to his cell, and called on her walkie talkie for the
control booth to open Plaintiff's cell door. Defendant
Martin was still gripping Plaintiff's arm tightly and
Plaintiff was still laughing at her.
the cell door opened, Plaintiff “yanked” his arm
from Defendant Martin's tight grasp. (Doc. No. 17 at 6).
Defendant Martin let go of his arm and Plaintiff walked into
his cell. When he was all the way into his cell towards the
bed, still handcuffed, he turned around to see Defendant
Martin standing outside the cell door fumbling with her
pepper spray holster. She pointed the pepper spray can at
Plaintiff so he turned his head and closed his eyes. He felt
the chemicals hitting his hair, right jaw, and right ear. He
did nothing aggressive towards Martin and felt his life was
in danger from this excessive use of force that was
unconstitutional and violated prison policy. No. other
officers was present at the time of Defendant Martin's
use of force. (Doc. No. 17 at 6).
was partially blind and tried to remove the pepper spray from
his face yet it spread to his eyes. Plaintiff rushed towards
Martin outside the cell and punched her face. She tumbled
backwards and fell, then Plaintiff jumped on top of her and
punched her a few more times. A Code- 4 was called on the
intercom. Plaintiff got up off Defendant Martin and backed
into his cell to await the first responder officers.
Plaintiff told the officers that Defendant Martin pepper
sprayed him for no reason and that he acted in self-defense
to prevent further harm because he felt his life was in
danger. Plaintiff felt officers piling on top of him to bring
him down to the floor. They cuffed and shackled him then
roughly snatched him off the floor to escort him to lockup in
E-unit for detox in the showers. Defendant Martin denied
Plaintiff's version of events so he asked to look at the
surveillance video footage. Defendant has denied
Plaintiff's version of events so he has asked for an
investigation and review of the video footage.
was having a hard time breathing because of asthma and had a
“slight” reaction due to the pepper spray which
“almost” caused an asthma attack. (Doc. No. 17 at
8). The spray caused facial swelling and a nurse checkup that
came back with no positive vital or blood pressure signs.
seeks Defendant Martin's permanent reassignment to
another prison, damages, costs and fees, and discovery
including video camera surveillance footage of the
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. No. 43)
Martin argues that summary judgment should be granted in her
favor because she did not use excessive force on Plaintiff or
otherwise violate his constitutional rights or other rights
under federal or state law, and that she should be granted
regards to excessive force, Defendant Martin argues that the
only issue before the Court is the use of pepper spray.
Plaintiff claims he did not present a threat to Defendant
Martin or act aggressively towards her, and that he feared
for his life. The record demonstrates that Defendant used
appropriate and reasonable measures of force to prevent
imminent assault. The video shows that Plaintiff's
version of events is not reliable. He has presented no
credible evidence upon which a reasonable jury could return a
verdict in his favor and, therefore, there are no genuine
issues as to any material fact and Defendant should be
granted judgment as a matter of law.
Martin argues that she is entitled to qualified immunity
because the undisputed evidence demonstrates that he conduct
was objectively reasonable in light of the circumstances and
did not clearly violate Plaintiff's constitutional
rights. Defendant Martin only applied pepper spray because
Plaintiff posed a significant risk to her safety, she did not
sue any more force than was necessary to prevent the attack.
Plaintiff's Responses (Doc. Nos. 75,
contends that summary judgment should be denied because there
are disputed issues of material fact and that Defendant
Martin is not entitled to qualified immunity.
claims that Defendant Martin used excessive force on him
twice before he assaulted her and that Defendant Martin's
failure to abide by her training and DPS policies,
i.e., by escorting Plaintiff alone and failing to
call for backup, placed Plaintiff at an increased risk of
harm from Defendant Martin. Plaintiff claims that DPS
supervisors, including investigating officer Captain Rodney
Riles, sided with Defendant Martin, protected her even though
she was wrong, and ignored Plaintiff's rights. He denies
Defendant Martin's claim that he told her that he was
refusing to go back to his cell. The videotape lacks sound so
it does not conclusively prove Plaintiff's or
Martin's version of events. The video shows that Martin
pushed Plaintiff against the wall and pepper sprayed him
before Plaintiff assaulted her. Had Martin truly felt
threatened, she would have radioed for assistance and,
instead of pepper spraying him, she could have closed him
inside his cell. Plaintiff further claims that he never gave
Defendant Martin a reason to use force on him, that her
intention was to harm him, and that she could have prevented
the whole incident by calling for help. Plaintiff admits he
struck Martin repeatedly after she sprayed him which was in
self-defense after she used excessive force on him twice.
(Doc. No. 78 at 10).
further claims that he stated that he sustained injuries
including difficulty breathing, asthma attack, swelling of
the face and eye and that pictures show signs of excessive
force. (Doc. No. 78 at 7).
Affidavit of Pamela Martin (Doc. No. 68-1)
Martin states that she was a Correctional Officer at Marion
C.I. at the relevant time. On October 6, 2017, she retrieved
Plaintiff from recreation for the purpose of escorting him
back to his assigned cell. She cuffed him in front of his
body because he had a “490, ” which is a medical
note indicating that he needed to be cuffed in front. (Doc.
No. 68-1 at 1). During the escort, Plaintiff said he was not
going back to his cell and jerked away from Martin's
hold. Martin instructed Plaintiff to stop jerking away from
him and said that his recreational time was over and he
needed to lock down, i.e., be secured in his
assigned cell. As the escort continued, Plaintiff again
stated that he was not going to lock down and that he wanted
more recreation time. Martin again responded that his
recreational time was over and he needed to lock down.
Plaintiff then attempted to jerk away from Martin so she
placed him against the flat surface of the wall to gain
control over him and ensure compliance. Plaintiff used
profanity towards Martin and told her to let go of his arm.
By this time, they were relatively close to Plaintiff's
cell. The cell door was open and Martin instructed Plaintiff
to calm down and enter the cell. Plaintiff then entered the
cell but then suddenly turned around towards Martin and
threatened to harm her. At that moment, Martin “felt
that a physical assault was imminent, so [she] pulled [her]
pepper spray and applied the spray toward [Plaintiff's]
face in an effort to prevent he imminent assault.”
(Doc. No. 68-1 at 2). The pepper spray was not effective and
Plaintiff rushed toward her and hit her with both of his
fists, knocking her backwards to the ground.” (Doc. No.
68-1 at 2). Plaintiff continued to strike her with his cuffs
on her face, head, left arm, upper chest, and ribs. Defendant
Martin managed to grab her radio and called a Code 4 which
indicates an assault on staff. At that moment, Plaintiff
backed off of her and went back into his cell. Another
correctional officer placed Plaintiff on the ground and
Defendant Martin assisted in securing him. At no time during
this encounter did Defendant Martin use profanity or
otherwise act unprofessionally toward Plaintiff. Defendant
Martin “used pepper spray on Inmate-Adkins because he
was exhibiting violent and aggressive behavior and was
threatening to harm [her].” (Doc. No. 68-1 at 3 at
the time when Defendant Martin was employed at DPS, standard
procedure was to cuff inmates with their arms behind them so
that there is “relatively limited mobility in that they
are not effectively able to swing their arms, hands, and
cuffs.” (Doc. No. 68-1 at 3). “However, an inmate
cuffed with hands in the front has more mobility in that they
can generally swing their arms, hands, and cuffs” and
thus “presents more of a risk than one who is cuffed in
back.” (Doc. No. 68-1 at 3). Defendant Martin
recognized during this incident that Plaintiff posed a
greater risk of causing her harm because he was cuffed in
front. (Doc. No. 68-1 at 4).
safest way, and thus the best practice, to escort an inmate
into a cell is for the inmate to enter the cell face forward
and remain facing forward until the cell door is fully
secured.” (Doc. No. 68-1 at 4). After the door is
secured, the inmate is instructed to place their hands
through the slot so restraints can be removed. “[W]hen
an inmate turns around and toward an officer before the door
is secured, there is a greater risk that the inmate could
assault staff. This is particularly true when an inmate is
cuffed in the front.” (Doc. No. 68-1 at 4 at ¶
34-35). “Accordingly, when ...