Judge: Indiana prisoner’s peyote suit must proceed

July 30, 2015

An Indiana inmate’s federal lawsuit claiming he has a religious right to use peyote and tobacco must proceed, a judge ruled, though she also made clear state officials may seek a motion to dismiss the case.

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson dismissed some of Galen Freeman’s claims against the Indiana Department of Correction, but in an entry Wednesday ruled that other claims in his pro se complaint must proceed. Chiefly, his First Amendment claims against DOC officials must go forward, as must his claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

A former inmate at the Pendleton Correctional Facility, Freeman claims DOC Commissioner Bruce Lemmon, Superintendent Dushan Zatecky and counsel David Barr violated his religious liberty by denying him peyote and tobacco.

“Mr. Freeman alleges that as a Native American he is entitled to peyote and an ounce of tobacco per day and the defendants’ denial of these products violates his religious freedom under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (‘RLUIPA’), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc et seq.,” Magnus-Stinson wrote. “The claim for injunctive relief pursuant to RLUIPA shall proceed against Superintendent  Zatecky, Commissioner Lemmon, and Counselor David Barr in their official capacity. The only relief available to Mr. Freeman if he prevails on his RLUIPA claim is for injunctive relief.”

But Freeman also may pursue First Amendment claims for injunctive relief and damages against the defendants, according to the entry.

Magnus-Stinson also dismissed misjoined claims in Freeman’s suit that alleged he and other inmates were barred from the prison’s law library and that the facility lacked adequate mental health services. Those claims may be filed separately, she wrote.

“Nothing in this Entry should preclude the defendants from filing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),” for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, Magnus-Stinson wrote.

Freeman, of Corydon, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to a single count of Class B felony robbery in Scott Circuit Court in November 2007. The chronological case summary shows Freeman was sentenced to nine years in prison with good time credit for 365 days.

According to DOC records, Freeman is now in community corrections with a projected release date in September.


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