Thornton v. Brown, No. 94-1258

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore CUDAHY, ESCHBACH, and MANION; ESCHBACH
Citation47 F.3d 194
PartiesRodger THORNTON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Gregory BROWN, Jimmie Mifflin, Jr., and Michael Kelly, Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date03 February 1995
Docket NumberNo. 94-1258

Page 194

47 F.3d 194
Rodger THORNTON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Gregory BROWN, Jimmie Mifflin, Jr., and Michael Kelly,
Defendants-Appellees.
No. 94-1258.
United States Court of Appeals,
Seventh Circuit.
Argued Dec. 1, 1994.
Decided Feb. 3, 1995.

Page 195

David M. Stahl, Karen Owen Dunlop (argued), Sidley & Austin, Chicago, IL, for plaintiff-appellant.

Nuviah Shirazi, Springfield, IL, Mary E. Welsh (argued), Office of the Atty. Gen., Civ. Appeals Div., Chicago, IL, for defendants-appellees.

Before CUDAHY, ESCHBACH, and MANION, Circuit Judges.

ESCHBACH, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Rodger Thornton appeals from an adverse judgment entered by the district court in his 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 action against three officers of the Illinois Department of Corrections for allegedly violating his rights, under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Thornton contends that the magistrate judge made several key factual findings which were clearly erroneous. We affirm.

I.

Although the two parties provided conflicting trial testimony, the following background facts are undisputed. On September 26, 1989, while incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), Rodger Thornton suffered multiple stab wounds as the result of an attack by other inmates. At the time of the attack, Thornton was performing his cleaning duties in the West Cellhouse on Gallery 5, the floor on which his cell was located. Defendants Kelly, Brown and Mifflin were all on duty serving as Menard correctional officers. Defendant Kelly was assigned to Gallery 5, where he was responsible for taking the morning count and escorting the inmates to their designated work areas. Defendants Brown and Mifflin were assigned to the West Cellhouse "catwalk," a narrow walkway above the perimeter of the cellhouse, where each was responsible for patrolling with a shotgun and overlooking the various galleries in which the prisoners were housed. Finally, it is undisputed that on September 26, 1989, a prison riot broke out at Menard at approximately 11:45 a.m., just prior to the time the attack on Thornton occurred.

According to Thornton's testimony at trial, Defendant Kelly took possession of the keys to Gallery 5 shortly before 11:45 a.m. and unlocked the gallery door, thereby allowing a group of inmates to attack Thornton on Gallery 5. Thornton further testified that Defendants Brown and Mifflin watched the attack occur and refused to take any action to stop the assault. Thornton stated that the assault continued until Officer Edwards, a "catwalk" officer from the East Cellhouse, arrived at the scene and pointed his shotgun at the attackers.

Defendants' trial testimony was contrary to that of Thornton. Defendant Kelly testified that he dropped off his keys with the door officer shortly after 7:00 a.m. when he escorted the inmates out of Gallery 5, and he did not return to the West Cellhouse until about 2:45 p.m.--several hours after the attack on Thornton took place. Defendants Brown and Mifflin both testified that they did not witness the attack on Thornton because

Page 196

their attention was focused on Gallery 1, where a race riot broke out involving over forty African-American and Hispanic inmates. Officers Brown and Mifflin stated that once they became aware of the attack on Thornton, they fired a warning shot, levelled their guns at the attackers and protected Thornton from any further assault. The defense also called Officer Edwards as a witness, and he testified that he simply helped Officer Brown keep the attackers away from Thornton.

On March 9, 1990, Thornton filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, claiming that Defendants Kelly, Brown and Mifflin had violated his Eighth Amendment rights by facilitating the other inmates' attack on him. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 636(c), the parties consented to allow all proceedings to be conducted by a United States Magistrate Judge, and a bench trial was held on January 19, 1994. On January 21, 1994, the magistrate judge ordered that judgment be entered for the defendants and against Thornton. In this order of the district court, the magistrate judge stated:

The Court concludes that defendants ... did not subject the plaintiff to cruel and unusual punishment on September 26, 1989. Testimony at...

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14 practice notes
  • Johnson v. Doughty, No. 04-1139.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • January 17, 2006
    ...we may only set aside a district court's factual findings if they are "clearly erroneous." Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a); see also Thornton v. Brown, 47 F.3d 194, 196 (7th Cir.1995). When there are two permissible views of the evidence, the district court's choice between them cannot be clearly errone......
  • E.E.O.C. v. Ilona of Hungary, Inc., No. 95-2935
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • October 2, 1996
    ...v. Navarro, 90 F.3d 1245, 1252 (7th Cir.1996); Eyler v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, 88 F.3d 445, 448 (7th Cir.1996); Thornton v. Brown, 47 F.3d 194, 197 (7th Cir.1995). That rule applies even where the appellate court may think the district court's choice a dubious one. United States v. Can......
  • E.E.O.C. v. Ilona of Hungary, Inc., No. 95-2935
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 6, 1997
    ...v. Navarro, 90 F.3d 1245, 1252 (7th Cir.1996); Eyler v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, 88 F.3d 445, 448 (7th Cir.1996); Thornton v. Brown, 47 F.3d 194, 197 (7th Cir.1995). That rule applies even where the appellate court may think the district court's choice a dubious one. United States v. Can......
  • Pearson v. Edgar, No. 97-2667
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • August 7, 1998
    ...error. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a) ("Findings of fact ... shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous...."); Thornton v. Page 401 Brown, 47 F.3d 194, 196 (7th Cir.1995). A factual finding is clearly erroneous only if we are "left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Johnson v. Doughty, No. 04-1139.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • January 17, 2006
    ...we may only set aside a district court's factual findings if they are "clearly erroneous." Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a); see also Thornton v. Brown, 47 F.3d 194, 196 (7th Cir.1995). When there are two permissible views of the evidence, the district court's choice between them cannot be clearly errone......
  • E.E.O.C. v. Ilona of Hungary, Inc., No. 95-2935
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • October 2, 1996
    ...v. Navarro, 90 F.3d 1245, 1252 (7th Cir.1996); Eyler v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, 88 F.3d 445, 448 (7th Cir.1996); Thornton v. Brown, 47 F.3d 194, 197 (7th Cir.1995). That rule applies even where the appellate court may think the district court's choice a dubious one. United States v. Can......
  • E.E.O.C. v. Ilona of Hungary, Inc., No. 95-2935
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 6, 1997
    ...v. Navarro, 90 F.3d 1245, 1252 (7th Cir.1996); Eyler v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, 88 F.3d 445, 448 (7th Cir.1996); Thornton v. Brown, 47 F.3d 194, 197 (7th Cir.1995). That rule applies even where the appellate court may think the district court's choice a dubious one. United States v. Can......
  • Pearson v. Edgar, No. 97-2667
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • August 7, 1998
    ...error. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a) ("Findings of fact ... shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous...."); Thornton v. Page 401 Brown, 47 F.3d 194, 196 (7th Cir.1995). A factual finding is clearly erroneous only if we are "left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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