Bard v. Brown Cnty.

Citation970 F.3d 738
Decision Date18 August 2020
Docket NumberNo. 19-3468,19-3468
Parties Ashley BARD, individually and as the Administrator of the Estate on behalf of Zachary Ryan Goldson, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BROWN COUNTY, OHIO et al., Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)


On October 5, 2013, Zachary Goldson died in a Brown County, Ohio jail cell. Less than an hour after a correctional officer was captured on video yelling in Goldson's ear, "I'd like to break your fucking neck right now," multiple correctional officers apparently discovered Goldson hanging by his neck from a bedsheet tied to the sprinkler escutcheon in his cell, in what the officers now characterize as a suicide. Goldson's sister Ashley Bard, suing the officers and Brown County, Ohio, individually and on behalf of Goldson's estate, disputes this account, claiming that Goldson's hanging was staged. Bard also brought an array of claims alleging other civil-rights and state-law violations. In assessing the defendantsmotion for summary judgment, the district court acknowledged that there was a genuine dispute of fact as to whether Goldson was capable of hanging himself, mainly due to the physical layout of the cell and Goldson's physical characteristics. Despite this, the district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, reasoning that Bard had not adduced sufficient evidence as to a specific theory of how Goldson died, and dismissed nearly all of Bard's other claims as well. For the following reasons, we REVERSE in part, AFFIRM in part, and REMAND for trial on the use of force involved in Goldson's death in the jail cell.1 Separately, I would remand for trial on the use of force involved in removing Goldson from a sheriff's cruiser prior to his death.

A. Goldson's Booking, Hospital Visits, and Assault of Deputy Justice

Zachary Goldson was booked into the Brown County Jail on or about September 26, 2013, on charges of having a weapon under disability, possession of a dangerous ordinance, and shooting across a roadway. R. 77-2 (Thomas Ackley Aff. ¶ 2) (Page ID #3182). An initial medical and mental health screen of Goldson gave no negative information. Id. ¶ 4.

On October 4, Goldson swallowed an ink pen, but stated that he did not intend to harm himself in any way. R. 77-3 (Brian Dutlinger Aff. ¶¶ 6–7) (Page ID #3188–89). He was transported to a local emergency room and then returned to holding cell 15 in the jail with a portion of the pen still in his stomach. Id. ¶ 8. That night, Goldson complained of stomach pain, R. 76-1 (Schadle Dep. at 51) (Page ID #3018), so Deputy Travis Justice transported him to Southwest Regional Medical Center for treatment, R. 75-4 (Justice Dep. at 33) (Page ID #2088). Dr. Mark Thornton evaluated Goldson and testified that Goldson was calm and cooperative during his medical evaluation, that Goldson did not pose a threat to himself, and that Thornton did not conduct extensive psychological questioning of Goldson. R. 74-11 (Thornton Dep. at 19, 21) (Page ID #1210, 1212).

In the early morning of October 5, at approximately 2:20 a.m., R. 2 (Am. Compl. ¶ 3) (Page ID #28); R. 74-14 (Prosecutor's Summary at 3) (Page ID #1406), Goldson was discharged from the hospital and Deputy Justice secured him in leg shackles, double-locked handcuffs, and a transport belt for transport back to the jail, R. 74-11 (Thornton Dep. at 22) (Page ID #1213); R. 75-4 (Justice Dep. at 42–43) (Page ID #2097–98). As Deputy Justice was opening the door to his cruiser, Goldson freed or partially freed himself from the restraints, struck Justice in the back of the head, and attempted to remove Justice's firearm from his holster. R. 75-4 (Justice Dep. at 49–52) (Page ID #2104–07). Deputy Justice threw his firearm away, and a physical struggle ensued, in which Goldson hit Justice in the face multiple times. R. 75-4 (Justice Dep. at 53–56) (Page ID #2108–11). At some point before or during the struggle, Goldson had one hand and one leg free. R. 75-1 (Staggs Dep. at 26–27) (Page ID #1888–89).

Medical personnel then assisted Deputy Justice in restraining Goldson, R. 74-11 (Thornton Dep. at 24) (Page ID #1215), and helped Justice keep Goldson on his stomach until law-enforcement officers arrived to secure him in handcuffs and leg shackles. R. 98-1 (Georgetown PD Dashcam at 3:16–3:40). Dashcam video footage from the arriving officers reveals this scene, including audio of Goldson dry-heaving. R. 98-1 (Georgetown PD Dashcam at 3:45–3:52). One officer told Goldson, "Shut up, dude," id. at 3:48, and either the same or another officer asked Goldson, "What's your name, trash?" Id. at 4:15.

Shortly thereafter, Deputy Ryan Wedmore arrived on the scene, kneeled to the ground, and said in Goldson's ear, "What the fuck is wrong with you, you stupid motherfucker?" Id. at 4:48–52. Wedmore then stood up and stated, "I don't give a fuck," "Hope you like prison, bitch," and "I'd like to break your fucking neck right now." Id. at 4:54–5:19. As the officers lifted Goldson from the ground and transported him into the backseat of a sheriff's cruiser, Wedmore stated, "That motherfucker is getting a welcome party when we get to the jail." Id. at 5:47–5:52.

B. Goldson's Transport and Placement into the Holding Cell

Deputy Wedmore transported Goldson to the jail and parked in the jail's sally port at approximately 2:32 a.m. R. 75-6 (Wedmore Dep. at 93) (Page ID #2491); R. 98-1 (Sally Port Video at 0:07). Corporal Jason Huff, CO George Dunning, and CO Zane Schadle were present in the sally port when Wedmore arrived with Goldson in tow. R. 75-6 (Wedmore Dep. at 98) (Page ID #2496). Goldson, who was restrained in leg shackles, a transport belt, and two sets of handcuffs, was lying face down in the backseat of the car with his feet facing the driver's side of the car. R. 75-7 (Huff Dep. at 78) (Page ID #2656). Huff opened the rear, driver's-side door of the cruiser, reached inside, grabbed the lower part of Goldson's body, and pulled him out of the cruiser. R. 98-1 (Sally Port Video at 0:08–0:11). The upper part of Goldson's body fell to the floor. Id. at 0:12. The officers lifted Goldson from the ground and walked him from the sally port into cell 15. Id. at 0:13–0:19; R. 98-1 (Goldson Placement in Cell ("Hallway Video") at 0:20–0:22); R. 75-5 (Dunning Dep. at 102) (Page ID #2269).

At 2:32 a.m., COs Dunning and Schadle entered cell 15 with Goldson, while Corporal Huff and Deputy Wedmore remained in the hallway. R. 75-5 (Dunning Dep. at 101) (Page ID #2268); R. 75-6 (Wedmore Dep. at 113) (Page ID #2511); R. 98-1 (Hallway Video at 0:20). COs Dunning and Schadle testified that they removed the handcuffs, shackles, and transport belt from Goldson in the cell, R. 76-1 (Schadle Dep. at 84–85) (Page ID #3051–52); R. 75-5 (Dunning Dep. at 104–05) (Page ID #2271–72), whereas Bard claims that Goldson remained handcuffed and leg-shackled while lying down. See, e.g. , R. 102-2 (Pl.’s Resp. to Proposed Undisputed Facts ¶ 58) (Page ID #4281); Appellant Br. at 18–19. The officers removed a blanket and Goldson's shoes from the cell, R. 75-5 (Dunning Dep. at 151) (Page ID #2318); R. 76-1 (Schadle Dep. at 89) (Page ID #3056), and at 2:34 a.m., exited the cell, closed its door, and walked away. R. 98-1 (Hallway Video at 1:00–1:05). The security footage is too blurry to reveal what items the officers carried into or out of cell 15, other than COs Dunning and Schadle each carrying one pair of handcuffs as they walked down the hallway after exiting the cell. See R. 98-1 (Hallway Video at 0:20, 1:05–1:07).

From the time Goldson arrived at the jail's sally port until the officers exited cell 15, CO Sarah McKinzie observed the video feed from another room. R. 75-8 (McKinzie Dep. at 86, 112, 170–72) (Page ID #2811, 2837, 2895–97). Thus, she was unable to see inside cell 15 while COs Dunning and Schadle were inside of it. R. 75-8 (McKinzie Dep. at 167) (Page ID #2892).

After the officers left Goldson in the cell, over the next several minutes, various officers walked up and down the hallway and stopped outside cell 15 to look inside. R. 75-6 (Wedmore Dep. at 116–17) (Page ID #2514–15); R. 98-1 (Hallway Video at 1:35–3:25). Deputy Wedmore and Corporal Huff left the jail to check on Deputy Justice and pick up his car. R. 75-7 (Huff Dep. at 110) (Page ID #2688); R. 102-2 (Pl.’s Resp. to Proposed Undisputed Facts at 1) (Page ID #4278). Between 2:37 and 2:57 a.m., the security footage does not show anyone walking past cell 15. R. 98-1 (Hallway Video at 3:22–5:45).

C. Initiation of Medical Care to Goldson

At 2:58 a.m., CO Schadle walked down the hallway toward cell 15, with CO Dunning closely behind him. R. 76-1 (Schadle Dep. at 119–20) (Page ID #3086–87); R. 98-1 (Hallway Video at 5:46). Upon reaching cell 15, CO Schadle looked inside the cell and suddenly stepped back with his hands reaching toward the cell door. R. 98-1 (Hallway Video at 5:51–5:55). COs Schadle and Dunning testified that at this moment, CO Schadle discovered Goldson hanging in the cell. R. 76-1 (Schadle Dep. at 121) (Page ID #3088); R. 75-5 (Dunning Dep. at 182) (Page ID #2349). As CO Schadle unlocked the cell door and rushed into cell 15 with CO Dunning behind him, CO McKinzie, who had been walking behind them, arrived at the threshold of the door and observed what was transpiring inside the cell. R. 98-1 (Hallway Video at 6:03–6:07). CO McKinzie then abruptly turned to run back to the booking room to call the communication center to request a life squad, and then returned to cell 15. R. 75-8 (McKinzie Dep. at 190) (Page ID #2915); R. 98-1 (Hallway Video at 6:10–6:14).

The parties disagree as to what occurred inside the cell. According to the defendants-appellees, CO Schadle grabbed hold of Goldson's hanging body around the waist, while CO Dunning reached up and cut the sheet from which Goldson was hanging by the neck. R. 75-5 (Dunning Dep. at 185) (Page ID #2352); R....

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