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Cox v. Quinn

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

July 6, 2016

DEWAYNE JACKSON COX, a/k/a Dwayne Cox, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
OFFICER BRADLEY QUINN; OFFICER JOSHUA PINKERMAN; OFFICER BENJAMIN BAXLEY, Defendants-Appellants, and CAPTAIN CHAD KELLER; SERGEANT WILLIE SMITH; MAJOR GREG WINSTON; LIEUTENANT SHELTON; CORRECTIONAL OFFICER MYLES, a/k/a Miles; OTHER UNKNOWN OFFICERS AND/OR EMPLOYEES OF THE WESTERN VIRGINIA REGIONAL JAIL; BRANDON JAMAL REDDIX; JUSTIN MILES, Defendants. DEWAYNE JACKSON COX, a/k/a Dwayne Cox, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
JUSTIN MILES, Defendant-Appellant, and OFFICER BRADLEY QUINN; OFFICER JOSHUA PINKERMAN; OFFICER BENJAMIN BAXLEY; CAPTAIN CHAD KELLER; SERGEANT WILLIE SMITH; MAJOR GREG WINSTON; LIEUTENANT SHELTON; CORRECTIONAL OFFICER MYLES, a/k/a Miles; OTHER UNKNOWN OFFICERS AND/OR EMPLOYEES OF THE WESTERN VIRGINIA REGIONAL JAIL; BRANDON JAMAL REDDIX, Defendants.

          Argued: May 11, 2016

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, at Roanoke. Glen E. Conrad, Chief District Judge. (7:12-cv-00154-GEC)

         ARGUED:

          Jim H. Guynn, Jr., GUYNN & WADDELL, P.C., Salem, Virginia; Christopher Carey Newton, FRITH ANDERSON & PEAKE, P.C., Roanoke, Virginia, for Appellants.

          Melvin Edward Williams, MEL WILLIAMS PLC, Roanoke, Virginia, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          John C. Johnson, FRITH ANDERSON & PEAKE, P.C., Roanoke, Virginia, for Appellant Justin Miles.

          Before DUNCAN, WYNN, and HARRIS, Circuit Judges.

          PAMELA HARRIS, Circuit Judge

         In 2011, appellee Dewayne Cox was severely beaten by a fellow inmate while incarcerated at the Western Virginia Regional Jail. Cox had repeatedly complained to jail officials - including the appellants, correctional officers Bradley Quinn, Joshua Pinkerman, Benjamin Baxley, and Justin Miles - that he was being threatened, harassed, and robbed by the group of inmates who ultimately orchestrated the beating. Cox filed suit against Baxley, Quinn, Pinkerman, and Miles, alleging that they had been deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk to his safety, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Eighth Amendment. The district court denied summary judgment to the correctional officers, finding that they were not entitled to qualified immunity on Cox's claims. We agree, and we affirm.

         I.

         A.

         Because this is an interlocutory appeal of a denial of qualified immunity, we consider only "the facts as the district court viewed them as well as any additional undisputed facts." Danser v. Stansberry, 772 F.3d 340, 345 (4th Cir. 2014).

         In 2010 and 2011, Dewayne Cox was incarcerated at the Western Virginia Regional Jail. Cox was housed in "Pod 3A" with about fifty other men, including Terrence Jackson, David Cabell, Sheron Harris, and Brandon Reddix. Jackson, Cabell, and Harris formed an informal gang or group in the pod. At some point, Reddix joined their group as well.

         Cox and other inmates found the Jackson-Cabell-Harris group to be loud, aggressive, intimidating, and threatening. As one inmate, Gerald Garlic, explained,

They would snatch the T.V. remote from others['] hands, and take radio[]s or unplug headphones, and disrupt board games or card games by pushing them out of reach or taking p[ie]ces and issuing a challenge to who-ever they chose to pick on at the time by saying things like "what ya gonna do pops" "say something" "I'll fuck you up" ["]we rule this pod and if y[']all don't like it just say something and we'll take care of you" or "say something to the [correctional officers] we will beat your old toothless stinking ass to death, " or ["]we are []Bloods and we run shit in here."

J.A. 317-18. According to another inmate, Joe Rutherford, "Harris[, ] Cabell and Jackson [were] constantly loud and intimidating and more or less [were] in a gang all their own. They were trouble waiting to happen." J.A. 324.

         Cox and at least one other inmate submitted informal complaints, or "blue slips, " describing the group's aggressive and threatening behavior to jail officials, and Cox discussed his concerns with Captain Chad Keller on March 8, 2011. Cox informed Keller that Harris was harassing and stealing from him and requested that either he or Harris be moved to a different pod. According to Cox, Keller responded that he knew Harris was "an asshole" who "creates problems everywhere he goes." J.A. 282. But Keller asked Cox if he and Harris could remain in the pod together if he talked to Harris and "ke[pt] him on a chain." Id. Cox agreed.

         After Keller talked to Harris about Cox's complaints, however, the situation in the pod only got worse for Cox. Harris called Cox a "snitch" and threatened that he "was going to get" him. J.A. 283. Then, a few weeks later, Harris and Cabell instigated a physical altercation with Cox and issued explicit threats in front of other inmates. As one inmate described:

[T]here were about six of us playing poker together. . . . Dewayne [Cox] won a hand. Harris and Cabell started raising their voices, telling Dewayne he was a p[ie]ce of shit. Mr. Cabell jerked the sheet we had covering the table[] off the table and threw cards everywhere. He reached across the table and knocked other cards . . . out of Dewayne's hands and got in Dewayne[']s face and said "Do something punk, [] say anything you old toothless son of a bitch and I'll stomp your white ass all over this pod." Then Cabell went to the telephone area, still angry, upset, and threw a blue plastic chair . . . across the floor, and issued a challenge for the whole pod, for "anybody say one fucking word about it I will fuck em up" "Go on! Anybody, please say something so I can beat some ass."

J.A. 324-25 (affidavit of inmate Rutherford). In addition, Harris and Cabell stole commissary items from Cox and harassed him on other occasions. Cox submitted several more blue slips complaining about these issues and requesting that either he or the inmates who were ...


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