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Morris v. Bria

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Wichita Falls Division

May 30, 2018

TODRICK MORRIS, TDCJ
v.
LT. ANTHONY BRIA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND OPINION

          HAL R. RAY, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Defendants Shea Sides and Juli McCaffity's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 90) with Brief (ECF No. 90-1) and Appendix (ECF No. 90-2) in support, filed February 2, 2018; and “Plaintiff Opposition (Response) to Defendants Sides and McCaffity's Motion for Summary Judgment” (ECF No. 109), filed March 19, 2018. The parties consented to have the United States Magistrate Judge conduct all proceedings in this case, up to and including trial and order of final judgment. ECF No. 85. After considering the pleadings and applicable law, the Court GRANTS Defendants Shea Sides and Juli McCaffity's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 90).

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Todrick Morris (“Morris”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his constitutional rights. ECF No. 38 at 3-4. He claims excessive force, retaliation for engaging in protected conduct, failure to protect, conspiracy, and deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Id.

         Morris is an inmate in custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (“TDCJ”) and is currently incarcerated in the Allred Unit in Iowa Park, Texas. ECF No. 38 at 1. Defendants Lt. Anthony Bria (“Bria”), Sgt. Tommy Cates (“Cates”), Sgt. Larry Goatley, Jr. (“Goatley”), Justin Odom (“Odom”), Scott Szczepinski (“Szczepinski”), Richard Arrieta, Jr. (“Arrieta”), John M. Cerda, Jr. (“Cerda”), Michael A. Cossey (“Cossey”), and Patrick W. Morris (“Officer Morris”) (collectively, the “Guard Defendants”) are correctional officers at the Allred Unit. ECF No. 99 at 4. Defendants Shea Sides (“Sides”) and Juli McCaffity (“McCaffity”) (collectively, the “Nurse Defendants”) are nurses at the Allred Unit. ECF No. 90-1 at 3.

         The following facts are taken from Morris's Second Amended Complaint, which Morris verified by a signature to be true under penalty of perjury. ECF No. 38 at 16.

         On February 18, 2017, Bria, Cates, and Goatley allegedly came to Morris's cell at Pod J of the Allred High Security Unit and confronted Morris about filing grievances. Id. at 5. According to Morris, they became angry with him during the confrontation and told him that they were going to beat him. Id. They then left the pod. Id.

         About forty-five minutes later they returned to his cell with a five-man extraction team consisting of Arrieta, Szczepinski, Odom, Officer Morris, and Cossey (collectively the “Team Defendants”). Id. Cerda also came with them, as the video camera operator. Id. at 6. Morris claims he was in compliance with all TDCJ rules and regulations up to this point. Id. When he saw the team, and due to the threats that Bria, Cates, and Goatley had allegedly made, Morris states that he feared for his life and believed he was about to be harmed. Id. He then covered his cell door and windows and placed a magazine in the cell door to prevent the door from being able to be opened. Id. Morris believed that, because of his actions, the correctional officers would be required to summon a higher-ranking officer to the scene, and Morris would then be able to communicate his fear of harm to the higher ranking official. Id. However, no higher-ranking official came to the scene. Id.

         Goatley sprayed chemical agents three times through the food slot in the cell door. Id. Morris claims that after each spray, he went to his cell door, moved the obstruction he had put there, and told Goatley and Bria that he would comply with orders to submit to a strip search and hand restraints. Id. Morris again requested the presence of a higher ranking official. Id. According to Morris, Bria and Goatley ignored Morris's attempts to surrender himself and instead forced the cell door open. Id. The Team Defendants then went into Morris's cell. Id. One of the Team Defendants, purportedly Officer Morris, struck Morris with a shield. Id.; ECF No. 111 at 4. When he was struck, Morris was standing in the doorway area of his cell by the shower. ECF No. 38 at 6.

         Morris alleges that he was then forced further back into the cell toward the shower and toilet area, and the Team Defendants struck him several times in the face and head. Id. at 7. He claims that he was not resisting at this point and started to dive to the cell floor to surrender. Id. He was then slammed or tackled face-down to the floor in the toilet and shower area, with his head near the front of the cell door opening and wall fixture. Id. Morris then placed his hands behind his back to surrender and loudly stated that he was not resisting. Id. At this point the Team Defendants allegedly punched him in the head and face, choked him, banged his head into the floor twice, gouged his eyes, and bent his hands, arms, and legs. Id. The Team Defendants then placed Morris in hand restraints. Id. Morris alleges that, during the incident, the Team Defendants falsely called out “quit resisting” when he was not resisting. Id.

         Morris alleges that Bria and Goatley intentionally stood in the cell door to obstruct the view of the video camera, which allowed the Team Defendants to assault Morris. Id. at 8. Morris alleges that Bria then stepped into Morris's cell and struck Morris with a chemical agent canister in Morris's left-eye area and sprayed Morris with the chemical agent. Id. Morris alleges that he was still not resisting. Id. Morris claims that he was continually struck and choked for several more minutes, during which period he lost consciousness twice. Id.

         Bria then called Cerda to come closer to the cell with the video camera. Id. The Team Defendants cut off Morris's clothing and took him out of his cell onto the walkway to stand facing the wall. Id.

         Bria and Goatley then summoned medical personnel to the scene. Id. Sides arrived, approached Morris, and asked him if he had any injuries. Id. Morris responded that he had injuries to the left and right sides of his face, his left eye, his head, and his left hand. Id. at 9. Morris claims that he was dizzy and disoriented from the attack and had several visible injuries, including swollen lips as well as swelling and bleeding on his head and face. Id. Morris alleges that Sides medically cleared Morris on the video recording and told Goatley that Morris was okay. Id. Morris alleges that Sides did not assess his injuries or their severity at this time. Id. According to Morris, several other inmates then began cursing and yelling at Sides from their cells that she needed to give Morris medical treatment and they were witnesses to her denying care to Morris. Id. Goatley took photos of Morris and stated on camera that Sides had medically cleared Morris to be placed back ...


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