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Marion County Jail beating lawsuit proceeds

August 2, 2018

A judge has refused to dismiss a federal lawsuit in which a man claims guards at the Marion County Jail stomped and beat him, leaving him with broken ribs, then refused to allow him to file a grievance.

Michael Fisher was booked into jail Sept. 21, 2017, and was charged with public intoxication. In the early hours of the next morning, he requested a guard give him his prescribed medication, according to his complaint.

“In response to this request, three jail guards removed Mr. Fisher from his cell and took him to a secluded area, where they proceeded to ‘kick, beat, stomp, and otherwise physically assault’ him,” Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson wrote, quoting Fisher’s complaint, which is accepted as true against the defense’s motion to dismiss.

“Mr. Fisher sought treatment from the jail nurse, and she informed him that the doctor could not help him with broken ribs and that the Marion County Jail would not treat his injuries until he was moved to general population ... Mr. Fisher also reported the assault to a jail employee while being fingerprinted, but that employee did not respond and did not report Mr. Fisher’s complaint. Both the fingerprinting employee and the nurse refused to provide Mr. Fisher with a grievance form,” Magnus-Stinson wrote.

On Sept. 25, after Fisher was released, he was examined at St. Francis Hospital and found to have broken ribs and “other physical trauma.”

Fisher sued Marion County Sheriff John Layton, Lt. Col. James Martin and three unnamed jail guard about a month later. On Wednesday, Magnus-Stinson partially granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss some of Fisher’s counts, but allowed his suit to proceed on his First Amendment and 14th Amendment due process claims.

 “Accepting Mr. Fisher’s allegations as true, the Court concludes that no reasonable officer could think he was acting lawfully in beating an inmate (resulting in multiple broken ribs and other injuries) with other officers, in response to an inmate’s request to be administered his medication. And in any event, there is no shortage of clearly established law prohibiting similar conduct,” Magnus-Stinson wrote.

The judge gave Fisher until Jan. 14, 2019, to file a revised statement of claims, noting several deficiencies in his complaint and its construction. She noted, for instance, the complaint identified defendants “as being employees of the City of Bicknell, instead of Marion County, giving the impression that the Complaint has been copied and pasted from a complaint in another case.”

The case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, is Fisher v. Marion County Jail, et al., 1:18-cv-649.  

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