Hare v. City of Corinth, Miss.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Mississippi
Citation814 F. Supp. 1312
Docket NumberNo. EC 91-248-D-D.,EC 91-248-D-D.
PartiesRichard HARE, Natural Father and Next Friend of Haley Hare, a Minor, and Richard Hare, Individually and in His Official Capacity as Administrator of the Estate of Tina Hare, Plaintiffs, v. The CITY OF CORINTH, MISSISSIPPI, a Municipal Corporation; Edward S. Bishop, Sr., Mayor of the City of Corinth, Mississippi; Jack Holt, Former Mayor of the City of Corinth, Mississippi; The City of Corinth, Mississippi, Board of Alderman; James C. Harrison, Alderman; Donald Joe Sanders, Alderman; George P. Chambers, Alderman; E.G. Holloway, Alderman; Lex Mitchell, Alderman; Fred Johnson, Individually and in His Official Capacity; Captain Billy Clyde Burns, Individually and in His Official Capacity; Captain James Damons, Individually and in His Official Capacity; Brenda Moore, Individually and in Her Official Capacity; John Doe and XYZ Corporation, Defendants.
Decision Date01 March 1993

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Ronald D. Michael, Booneville, Miss., for plaintiffs.

Gary E. Friedman, Susan D. Fahey, Steven J. Allen, Jackson, Miss., for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DAVIDSON, District Judge.

This is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 cause of action which arose out of the suicide death of Tina Norene Hare on July 4, 1989, while detained in the City of Corinth jail. Ms. Hare's husband filed suit in his individual and official capacity as the administrator of his wife's estate against the aldermen of the City of Corinth, the mayor, chief of police, and other custodial law enforcement officers of the City of Corinth, Mississippi. The cause of action is based on the alleged constitutional violations of Ms. Hare's Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights; and, there is a state law claim based upon the Mississippi Wrongful Death Statute, Miss.Code Ann. § 11-7-13 (Supp.1992).

At this stage of litigation, an active period for discovery has passed, and both parties have filed motions for summary judgment as to all claims pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After careful consideration of the record and briefs in this case, the court finds that defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the state law claim is well taken, and the same is hereby granted. However, as to the principle cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, defendants' motion for summary judgment is denied. Likewise, plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment is denied in full.

Since both parties have moved for summary judgment regarding the same issues, the court finds that it can effectively address both motions within the context of the same discussion. Hence, the following section presents a review of the alleged facts as such appear from the pleadings and exhibits. The court emphasizes that the following are the alleged facts as reflected in the deposition excerpts, affidavits, admissions, interrogatories, exhibits, etc. Of course, assertions of fact which are advanced by only one party and factual disputes between the parties will be duly noted. As the following demonstrates, there are several disputes of material facts in this case.

The Alleged Facts

In the early morning hours of July 4, 1989, the Booneville Police Department contacted the Corinth Police Department and advised that Tina Hare had been arrested on warrants for petty larceny and forgery. Officer Larry Fuqua of the Corinth Police Department picked up Ms. Hare at the Booneville Police Department and transported her to the Corinth jail. The plaintiff alleges that Booneville police informed Officer Fuqua that Ms. Hare was a "heavy drug user," a fact which defendants deny. In any event, Ms. Hare was jailed in the City of Corinth jail at approximately 1:45 a.m. on July 4, 1989.

According to the deposition testimony of Ms. Hare's husband, Richard Hare, he received a phone call from his wife after she was received into the Corinth jail. This was the first time that Tina Hare had ever been in jail, and her husband testified that she seemed scared and frightened. Tina informed her husband that nothing could be done to secure her release until after 8:00 a.m. Although Tina made no mention of any suicide thoughts during the phone call, Richard Hare stated that she had mentioned suicide during an altercation that he had with her the previous day, July 3, 1989. According to Mr. Hare, he did not take his wife's statement about suicide seriously; therefore, he did not tell anyone about the comment.

Later in the morning, Richard Hare contacted Tina's parents, Mr. Guy Taylor and Ms. Patricia Morgan, and informed them that their daughter was in the Corinth jail and needed help. Mr. Taylor, Ms. Morgan and Richard Hare met at some point in the morning, and a decision was made that Tina's parents would go to the jail at 8:00 a.m. to try to get their daughter released while Richard stayed home with the couple's baby daughter. At approximately 8:00 a.m., Mr. Taylor and Ms. Morgan went to the jail and met briefly with Captain Billy Burns. Capt. Burns informed Tina's parents that she was not ready for release, and the investigation concerning their daughter would take some time to complete. He instructed them to return home and wait for his call.

In his deposition testimony, Capt. Billy Burns stated that he was informed that Tina Hare was a suspect with regard to a check forgery case, and he first met with Tina at approximately 10:00 a.m. on July 4, 1989. In the interview, Tina informed Capt. Burns that she was an addict with a Dilaudid habit and that her habit was financed by writing checks. According to Capt. Burns, Tina was depressed about being in jail. She stated that she was an unfit mother, and she expressed concern about how her husband would react to her predicament. During the interview, Capt. Burns observed that Tina was going through withdrawal, which he associated as a normal reaction to her drug use. She sat with both feet in a chair in a defensive, "fetal-type" position. Furthermore, Burns learned during the interview that Tina was scheduled to enter a drug rehabilitation treatment program the very next day, July 5, 1989, in Tupelo, Mississippi.1 At some point in the interview, however, Tina's mood improved when she learned that her bond amount would not be as high as initially expected. Tina was then allowed to call her parents to ask them to return to the jailhouse to assist with her bond so that she could be released that afternoon. However, these plans never materialized. The record before the court indicates that Capt. Burns had been videotaping the interview. At some point, Burns apparently left the room, and when he returned, he observed that Tina had substituted another tape for the one which was in the recorder. The tape recording of the interview was subsequently found in a garbage can, and the tape had been damaged. In the meantime, additional charges came in on Tina Hare, and when Mr. Taylor and Ms. Morgan arrived at the jail at approximately 12:00, Capt. Burns informed them that Tina could not go home:

And during this period of time is when the other charges had come in, prior to her mother and daddy getting there, the best I remember. And when they arrived, I informed them that under the circumstances that we would not be able to release Tina until we were able to get all of the checks and determine exactly what had happened, and also the fact that she had stolen the tape from my office and part of it—had destroyed part of the evidence.

Although Tina was not released to her parents, she was allowed to visit with them. During this private meeting with her daughter, Ms. Morgan described Tina as "emotionally distraught."

Q. What did she say?
A. She said that she didn't take the checks, that she did go in the store and cash one. `Please get me out of here, Mother. I can't stand this. I can't bear this. Please get me out.' Holding her stomach, rocking the whole time. Just very distraught. Just—so emotionally distraught. Even got up like she was going to leave the building and I had to, you know, tell her that, you know, `You can't leave the building, Tina. You have to stay here. We have to work through this.'
And we asked Mr. Burns to release her, and I had told him that she was going to the rehabilitation center the next day, to just let me go ahead and pay her bond and carry her on down there....

Capt. Burns described Tina's mood as "hyper" and "frantic" during the time that her parents were at the jail.2 Tina attempted to convince Capt. Burns not to hold her in jail another night. At this point, Tina Hare threatened suicide, but Capt. Burns did not consider the threat serious.

Q. Yet she had threatened to do harm to herself if she had to stay.
A. She made those statements; however, they were not made in a tone of voice that was believable.
Q. What kind of tone of voice did she use?
A. It was in a tone of voice of a threat or a bribe, rather than a sincere statement.
Q. Okay.
A. In other words, her remarks basically were, `If you don't let me go home, I'll kill myself.'

Tina's father, Guy Taylor, also heard his daughter's statement about suicide. Contrary to Capt. Burns, Mr. Taylor testified that the statement was made in a serious, believable tone of voice:

A. ... He had carried Tina back there and started to lock her up. And Tina told him, said, `I'll not stay in here tonight.' Said, `I'll kill myself.'
Q. You heard her say that?
A. Yes, sir, I sure did.
Q. And she was back in the cell area when she said that?
A. No, sir. She was out front before they carried her back in the cell. Out front, you know, before they went back in.
Q. Okay. Did you think she was serious?
A. I know that kid was serious. You can tell when a kid is serious and when they're not.

At Capt. Burns' deposition, he was asked if he remembered Tina making the statement to him that "her life was in his hands," when he returned her to the jail area following the visit with her parents. Burns replied...

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