United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
James Russell moves, for the second time, for summary
judgment on plaintiff DeAndre Cothran's claim for
violation of his right to be free from excessive force under
the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Mr.
Cothran's claim revolves around Mr. Russell's
shooting of pepper spray into a cell in which Mr. Cothran was
confined. For the reasons discussed below, the Court again
denies Mr. Russell's motion for summary judgment.
April 24, 2016, Mr. Cothran, a Missouri Department of
Corrections inmate, was confined in a cell in the wing
including the Administration Segregation Unit (“Ad
Seg”) of the Western Missouri Correctional Center.
Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of
Facts (Doc. 89), p. 2. Mr. Cothran shared that cell with
another inmate, Dywon Newell. Id., p. 3.
Russell was a correctional officer assigned to Ad Seg when,
around 8:00 p.m., Mr. Newell twice struck the door of his
cell in an effort to secure Mr. Russell's attention to
request that Mr. Russell turn the lights on in his and Mr.
Cothran's cell. Id., pp. 2-3. Mr. Russell claims
that the cell door was “shaking, ” and that, in
his experience, this presented a “security
threat.” Id., p. 4. Mr. Cothran denies that
the cell door shook. Id. There is no dispute that
Mr. Cothran himself was not kicking his cell door or
otherwise causing a disturbance. Responses to Plaintiff's
Additional Facts (Doc. 93), p. 2. Mr. Cothran has stated that
he then heard Mr. Russell, who had been speaking to another
inmate, say something to the effect of, “Wait a minute,
I got to go spray somebody.” Doc. 89, p. 5. However,
Mr. Russell has denied saying anything of the kind.
Deposition of James Lester Russell, dated November 28, 2018
(Doc. 78-3), Tr. 94:19-24. Mr. Russell then walked across the
wing to Mr. Cothran's cell, bent over, opened the food
port of the cell door, and shot pepper spray directly into
the cell. Doc. 89, pp. 5-6. Mr. Cothran maintains that Mr.
Russell pushed Mr. Newell aside and intentionally directed
the pepper spray at Mr. Cothran, without warning.
Id., p. 6. Mr. Russell denies that he intentionally
directed the spray at Mr. Cothran, but he concedes that, had
he done so, it would have constituted excessive use of force.
Doc. 93, p. 2.
shooting the pepper spray, Mr. Russell “immediately
walked away from” Mr. Cothran's cell and left the
Ad Seg wing. Doc. 89, p. 6.
Cothran was left in a cell without functioning water
facilities for several days. Doc. 93, p. 3. Mr. Russell
denies that Mr. Cothran suffered pain and suffering as the
result of being pepper sprayed. Id., pp. 2-3.
Russell subsequently retired from the Missouri Department of
Corrections during a pending investigation into allegedly
unprofessional conduct during a use of force. Id.,
judgment is warranted where “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court must determine whether
“there are any genuine factual issues that properly can
be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may
reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250,
106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511 (1986).
Court must “view the facts and draw reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing
the summary judgment motion.” Scott v. Harris,
550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1774 (2007) (quotation
marks and citation omitted).
Russell's second motion for summary judgment is based on
the same premises as the first: the arguments that Mr.
Cothran failed to establish an excessive force claim against
Mr. Russell and that Mr. Russell is entitled to qualified
immunity. Doc. 35.
Whether the Undisputed Evidence Establishes as a Matter of
Law that There ...