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Turner v. Godwin

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

January 3, 2018

Tracy Turner, Plaintiff,
Officer C. Godwin, Defendant


          T.S. Ellis, III, United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment of defendant Officer C. Godwin. Tracy Turner, a Virginia inmate acting pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Godwin subjected him to excessive force by threatening to shoot him. For the reasons which follow, defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment must be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Plaintiffs Allegations

         This lawsuit arises from plaintiffs allegation that on October 15, 2014, during his confinement at the Caroline Correctional Center ("CCC"), Officer Godwin pointed a rifle at him and threatened to "blow [his] motherfucking head off." (Doc. 33 at 5) Plaintiff states that he was among a group of inmates who had stopped at a dump to use a Port-A-John when the incident occurred. (Doc. 16 at 5)[1] The others had all used the toilet, but when plaintiffs turn came Officer Godwin told him "to hold it until we got back to the camp." When plaintiff "questioned" Godwin, Godwin allegedly pointed a rifle at him and threatened him. Plaintiff states that his life was endangered by Godwin's action and that as a result he sustained a psychological injury for which he was prescribed two medications. Id. Plaintiff seeks an award of $100, 000 in damages.

         B. Proceedings

         On August 8, 2017, Officer Godwin filed a Motion for Summary Judgment accompanied by a memorandum of law with a supporting exhibit, and provided plaintiff with the notice required by Local Rule 7(K) and Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975). (Doc. 40-42) On September 8, 2017, Turner filed an opposition to Godwin's motion captioned "Responding to the Defenses." (Doc. 44) Upon review of plaintiff s opposition, it was noted that the document is neither notarized nor sworn, and thus does not subject plaintiff to the penalty of perjury for any misstatements. Accordingly, in deference to plaintiffs pro se status, an Order was entered on November 22, 2017, advising plaintiff that his opposition is insufficient as a matter of law to defeat a summary judgment motion. (Doc. 46) The requirements for a proper response to a motion for summary judgment were carefully explained, and plaintiff was allowed thirty (30) days within which to file a supplemental response to the Motion for Summary Judgment in compliance with those principles. Plaintiff has filed no supplemental response. Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for disposition.

         II. Analysis

         A. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party bears the burden of proving that judgment on the pleadings is appropriate. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (moving party bears the burden of persuasion on all relevant issues). To meet that burden, the moving party must demonstrate that no genuine issues of material fact are present for resolution. Id. at 322. Once a moving party has met its burden to show that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to point out the specific facts which create disputed factual issues. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a district court should consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of that party. United States v. Diebold. Inc., 369 U.S. 654.655 (1962). Those facts for which the moving party bears the burden of proving are facts which are material. "[T]he substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts which might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine when, "the evidence ... create[s] [a] fair doubt; wholly speculative assertions will not suffice." Ross v. Communications Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 364 (4th Cir. 1985). Thus, summary judgment is appropriate only where no material facts are genuinely disputed and the evidence as a whole could not lead a rational fact finder to rule for the non-moving party. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.

         B. Undisputed Material Facts

         In support of his Motion for Summary Judgment, Officer Godwin has submitted an affidavit in which he sets out the following facts. .On October 15, 2014, Godwin was assigned to provide security for an offender work crew at CCC. (Doc. 41, Godwin Aff. ¶ 4). The Virginia Department of Transportation ("VDOT") provides a bus for work crew transportation, and a VDOT foreman operates the bus. The offenders comprising the work crew are patted down and loaded into the bus in the institutional sally port, and when the bus is secure the foreman backs it out of the sally port and the correctional officer providing security gets on. Id.

         On the day in question there were 4 or 5 offenders on Godwin's work crew. Id., ¶ 5. When they arrived at the work site the offenders were tasked with clearing fallen trees and trimming and removing brush. As they worked it began to rain. At some point one of the older offenders, C. Faulks, informed Godwin that he had to use the restroom and it was an emergency. Id. Godwin did not feel that the area where the crew was working was suitable for Faulks' use, so the decision was made between Godwin and the VDOT foreman to load the work crew back into the van to drive to an area with a bathroom facility. Id. Eventually, they stopped at a dump site with a Port-a-John, and the VDOT foreman unlocked the back doors of the van so Faulks could exit.

         The bus used to transport offender crews is designed so that the offenders ride in a secured area. There is a metal grill barrier between the driver and the offenders and another such barrier between the offenders and the rear door of the bus, which has a locked gate. Offenders enter and exit the bus through the rear, and when they do so both the gate that secures the offenders as well as the exterior ...

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