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Hopkins v. Reed

United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, Southeastern Division

March 3, 2015

CHARLES REED, et al., Defendant.



This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motions to Compel (Docs. 53, 57, 58), Motion for the Appointment of Counsel (Doc. 68), and Request for an Order to Allow Plaintiff (Doc. 75) the opportunity for a subsequent review of discovery. Defendants have responded to each of these motions and they are ripe for disposition.

I. Background

The Plaintiff, Larry L. Hopkins, alleges that after making a trip to the medical unit at the Southeast Correctional Center (SECC) on September 4, 2012 for back pain, officers used excessive force against him in violation of his constitutional rights. In the pending motions, Hopkins claims that he has not been given the opportunity to review all of the video footage that is relevant to the use of force incident, nor all of the written reports concerning the incident. The Defendants have declined to make a copy of the written reports for Hopkins; they indicate his access to said reports is not allowed "pursuant to Missouri Department of Corrections procedures." (Doc. 80.) Nevertheless, those reports have been made a part of the public record in this case as they were attached to the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as supporting exhibits. See, Doc. 79-6 at 2-11 (produced at Bates Nos. 15-24; the documents include the nine-page "Investigation Report" completed by Brennan Gibson on March 12, 2013 and the one- page Inspector General's "Investigation Closing and Disposition" conclusion dated April 4, 2013) and Doc. 79-7 at 2-35 (produced at Bates Nos. 46-79; the documents include numerous written and typed reports prepared by the staff involved in the alleged use of force incident, as well as the Warden's and Use of Force Committee's documentation of the institutional response to the incident).

The Defendants also indicated that Hopkins was given an opportunity to "view[] all three camera angles" of the incident outside of the medical unit "multiple times" on September 2, 2014. (Doc. 82-1 at 1), as well as "an investigative report submitted by Investigator II Brennan Gibson regarding this use of force, reports submitted by staff members involved, " id., and other information. The following day, Hopkins was able to listen to "audio recordings of interviews of staff involved, " id., in the use of force incident.

During a status conference on January 13, 2015, Hopkins explained that the actual use of force incident was not really visible on the video footage that he was allowed to review and furthermore, that he believed there should have been video footage available from additional cameras. Counsel for Defendants replied that she was not aware of additional camera views being available, but that she could check on it. She further stated that if there was a camera within the medical unit any footage that may have been recorded would likely no longer be available. Counsel for Defendants indicated that she would inquire as to any changes made to the security cameras in the areas in question and report back to the Court.

On January 26, 2015, Brennan Gibson, who is "familiar with the security camera system utilized throughout" the SECC prepared an Affidavit and stated that "[a]ll video footage available regarding the incident. . .on September 4, 2012 was collected, viewed, and ultimately provided within the investigation conducted on behalf of the Office of the Inspector General." (Gibson's Affidavit was attached to Doc. 74, "Notice to Court" filed on January 27, 2015, stamped "Hopkins v. Reed, et al. 0085.)

The Court received and reviewed a copy of the video footage that was available and reviewed by Gibson and Hopkins. There are three video clips. The first clip is from "C133" which is a continuous video of the view of the hallway immediately outside of the medical unit entry doors and one wall in the corridor that leads to the front exterior door of what is believed to be housing unit 1; the timeframe included is from 10:28:55 a.m. to 10:36:33 a.m. This clip shows Hopkins apparently using the wall for support as he leaves the medical unit, followed by him going down onto his hands and knees, and then communicating with a corrections officer while on one knee. The officer and Hopkins converse and then the officer appears to assist Hopkins to his feet while at the same time working to place Hopkins' hands behind his back in restraints. Ultimately, Hopkins falls to the ground on his stomach with his legs stretched out behind him. Hopkins appears to lie very still for approximately fourteen seconds while the officer is applying the restraints, but then a struggle begins during which time additional officers assist in restraining Hopkins. The only part of the struggle that is visible on the video footage that was provided is from roughly Hopkins' knees to his feet. Hopkins upper body movements, as well as the movements of the primary restraining officer are not visible. Eventually, the officers place Hopkins in a wheelchair, but Hopkins again struggles with the officers. The wheelchair was taken away and officers bring back boards to the location. The activity involving Hopkins is out of view of the camera view for C133.

The second clip is from "C71, " another continuous video of the "front exterior HU1 door XC120" to what appears to be an outdoor corridor; the time stamp on the clip reveals that it shows the activity in that location between 10:34:11 a.m. to 10:35:47 a.m. That clip shows corrections officers on either side of Hopkins, more or less carrying him through the corridor with Hopkins' feet dragging. Another apparent struggle occurs just outside the view of the security camera.

The third and final clip that has been provided is from "C277" and depicts activity in what is identified as the central A-Wing of Housing Unit 2 between 10:38:56 and 10:44:32. During the course of this clip, Hopkins is carried in on a backboard, the backboard is placed on the ground, Hopkins is released from the backboard, and then placed on a bench to which he was handcuffed. A nurse from the medical unit communicates with Hopkins while he is seated on the bench.

Although a viewer of the video clips provided is not able to view all of the activity between Hopkins and SECC staff, because of what is visible in the frame of the security camera that created each of the clips, the videos are continuous and do not appear to have been altered or modified.

In his motions, Hopkins requests that the Court compel the Defendants to allow him to view all of the video footage of the use of force incident that occurred on September 4, 2012, including his trip to the medical unit in the wheelchair before the incident occurred, as well as any video footage within the medical unit. Hopkins also requests the appointment of counsel to represent him since he is without sufficient funds to hire an attorney and because of the complexity of the case, his lack of legal education, and the difficulty he has had with being able to view the discovery requested.

II. Plaintiff's Discovery Requests

In his motions to Compel (Docs. 53, 57) and Response to the Defendants' Response (Doc. 58), Hopkins repeatedly requests the opportunity to review "all" relevant video footage, including recordings from any security cameras "inside" the medical unit, as well as when he was "being pushed/e[s]corted from housing Unit #5 to medical." Hopkins made his initial requests for said material on February 18 and July 23, 2014. See also, Docs. 30, 47 (Documents 30 and 47 were docketed as "Exhibit A" and "Supplemental" by Plaintiff, respectively. The captions placed on the documents by Hopkins, however, specifically ...

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