586 F.2d 399 (5th Cir. 1978), 76-2890, Bogard v. Cook

Docket Nº:76-2890.
Citation:586 F.2d 399
Party Name:William Hardin BOGARD, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Thomas D. COOK, Former Superintendent of the Mississippi State Penitentiary, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:December 15, 1978
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 399

586 F.2d 399 (5th Cir. 1978)

William Hardin BOGARD, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Thomas D. COOK, Former Superintendent of the Mississippi

State Penitentiary, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 76-2890.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 15, 1978

Page 400

David M. Lipman, William E. Caldwell, Washington, D.C., Lawrence Zelle, Thomas C. Kayser, Minneapolis, Minn., for plaintiff-appellant.

James L. Robertson, Greenville, Miss., Champ T. Terney, Indianola, Miss., Pascol J. Townsend, Jr., Drew, Miss., P. Roger Googe, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., A. F. Summer, Atty. Gen. of Miss., Jackson, Miss., Hainon A. Miller, Greenville, Miss., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi.

Page 401

Before CLARK, FAY and VANCE, Circuit Judges.

CHARLES CLARK, Circuit Judge:

William H. Bogard, a former prisoner at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, Mississippi ("Parchman"), filed this action to recover civil damages for personal injuries. While a Parchman inmate, Bogard was subjected to a series of corporal punishments and suffered two incidents of prison violence, one a stabbing that severed his spinal cord and rendered him a permanent paraplegic. Bogard sued various supervisory officials, employees and inmates at Parchman, based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and pendent state tort claims. A three-week trial ended with a partially deadlocked jury which was able to reach agreement on only 26 of the 36 special verdict interrogatories submitted by the court. The jury's unanswered questions prove crucial to Bogard's appeal.

The district court held that the defendant prison officials and employees were clothed with qualified official immunity, and could be held liable in damages only on a finding of culpability greater than ordinary negligence. Although the jury in its partial verdict found that virtually all of the defendants had been negligent in performing their duties at Parchman, and had acted under color of law to subject Bogard to deprivations of due process or cruel and unusual punishment, the jury also specifically exonerated all but the three highest ranking prison employees from any misconduct more egregious than simple negligence. However, despite several efforts by the court, the jury was unable to reach an agreement on answers to interrogatories that asked whether the three top management level prison officials Superintendents Cook and Collier and Assistant Superintendent Byars were guilty of willful, wanton or gross negligence. After finally accepting the incomplete special verdict, the trial court issued a directed verdict in favor of all prison officials on the ground that there was no basis in the record for having submitted the willful, wanton or gross negligence question to the jury.

We agree that a finding of misconduct greater than simple negligence is required to obtain monetary relief against prison supervisors, and hold that the record supports the trial court's directed verdict in favor of the defendants Cook, Collier and Byars. Since it did, the jury's inability to reach agreement on the gross, willful or wanton misconduct interrogatory as to Cook, Collier, and Byars did not necessitate a mistrial. Only the liability of Superintendent Cook and Collier and Assistant Superintendent Byars is discussed throughout this opinion. All of the lower ranking Parchman officials Vanlandingham, Childs, Peeks, and Abril were either found not negligent by the jury or not guilty of misconduct greater than ordinary negligence. Because the qualified immunity enjoyed by all the employee-defendants could not be overcome on the basis of simple negligence, the district court could have entered judgments in favor of all officials but Cook, Collier, and Byars based upon the special verdict. The three fellow inmates sued by Bogard Milton Davis, Charles Dougherty, and James B. Davis were all found to have injured Bogard with willful, wanton or gross negligence; those defendants do not appeal from the judgments against them.

With the notation of some doubts as to style, the district court captioned its post-trial order in favor of the defendant-appellees as a directed verdict, and not a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Although a request for a directed verdict in favor of the defendants had been denied at the close of the evidence and a special verdict was accepted, it was partial and key questions remained unanswered by the jury. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b). Because the substance of the district court's action was fully apparent and no party's rights were affected by the style of the order, we do not analyze the technical nicety of whether the judgment is notwithstanding a verdict. For simplicity, we adopt the same terminology and refer to the order as a directed verdict.

Page 402

I. THE FACTS

  1. The Organization of the Parchman Prison

    The Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman is the only state prison in Mississippi. At the time Bogard was incarcerated at Parchman, the prison was operated essentially as it had been since 1903.

    Most of its 16,000 acres of farm land was devoted to growing cotton, soybeans and other cash crops, and the production of livestock, swine, poultry and milk. Mississippi law required Parchman to be financially self-sustaining, Miss.Code Ann. § 47-5-1. The prison was expected to "operate at a profit at any cost." Gates v. Collier, 349 F.Supp. 881, 892 (N.D.Miss.1972). 1 Consistent with this profit expectation, state law limited the number of prison employees to 150, "at such salaries as the penitentiary can afford." Miss.Code Ann. § 47-5-41. At the time of Bogard's incarceration at Parchman, the inmate population numbered approximately 1,900. Two-thirds of the inmates were black, and prison facilities were segregated by race.

    Discipline and security at Parchman were maintained through the "trusty system," a form of prison organization mandated by Mississippi law in which certain prisoners were selected to occupy positions ranging from armed guard to errand boy. See Miss.Code Ann. § 47-5-143 (1972). In the terminology of the prison, the prisoners at the top of the "inside world" hierarchy were the "trusty shooters," a group of about 150 inmate-guards armed with rifles and charged with the day-to-day guarding of the other inmates. Next came certain unarmed inmates, known simply as "trusties," who assisted the prison's civilian employees in various custodial and administrative capacities. "Hallboys" distributed medicine, delivered mail, and maintained files. "Floorwalkers" and "cage bosses" were charged with enforcing discipline and maintaining peace in the prison barracks; on their recommendation inmates could be punished. "Half-trusties," also unarmed, served primarily as errand boys. The remaining inmates were known as "gunmen."

    Parchman was physically divided into 21 separate units, the most important of which were the 12 major residential camps. Only four civilian employees, known as the "free worlders" were assigned to each residential camp. They consisted of a sergeant, who was in charge of the camp; two "drivers," who supervised transporting inmates to and from field work; and one night watchman. Each residential camp contained barracks, known as "cages," with separate wings for gunmen and trusties. Twenty to thirty trusty shooters were assigned to each camp.

    Parchman had a separate maximum security unit, which contained a special punishment area where inmates could be sent for violating prison rules. Each of the four wings of the maximum security unit contained 13 cells equipped for two men, with double metal bunks having no mattresses, a lavatory and a commode. In addition, each side of the maximum security unit contained a 6' x 6' cell, known as the "dark hole." The dark hole had no windows, lights, commode, sink or other furnishings. A six-inch hole located in the middle of the concrete floor was provided for disposition of body wastes. A solid heavy metal door closed the cell. Mississippi law specifically authorized use of the dark hole punishment for periods of up to twenty-four hours. Miss.Code Ann. § 47-5-145.

    State law vested overall responsibility and control of Parchman in the hands of the prison superintendent. The superintendent, appointed by the state penitentiary board, was exclusively "responsible for the management of affairs of the prison system and for the proper care, treatment, feeding, clothing and management of the prisoners." Miss.Code Ann. § 47-5-23. An assistant superintendent assisted the superintendent in his duties.

    Page 403

  2. Bogard's Injuries and Punishments at Parchman

    A twenty-two-year-old William Bogard arrived at Parchman in March of 1969, convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to twenty-five years' imprisonment. Three years later a permanently paraplegic Bogard left Parchman on the clemency of the Governor. Bogard divides his allegations of injury into three categories: a rifle wound inflicted by a trusty shooter on February 25, 1971, a knife wound inflicted by a fellow inmate on July 7, 1972, and various summary punishments imposed at different times throughout his confinement.

    At the time of the shooting incident of February 25, 1971, Bogard was incarcerated at residential Camp Eight at Parchman. It was a cold morning and the prisoners at Camp Eight were demanding that the camp sergeant, defendant Fred Childs, provide them with warmer clothing. When their request was denied, the inmates staged a "buck," a refusal to work. The striking inmates, including Bogard, were ordered to the Maximum Security Unit, and a truck was summoned to transport them.

    Pursuant to prison procedure, the truck was parked outside of the camp's "gunline," an imaginary line on the perimeter of the camp identified by markers. An unauthorized crossing of the gunline was considered an escape attempt and could be thwarted by...

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