United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
THE ESTATE OF BETTY SUE DUNN GRAY, Wilburn Gray, as Administrator of the Estate of Betty Sue Dunn Gray; WILBURN GRAY, individually and on behalf of all Wrongful death beneficiaries of Betty Sue Dunn Gray; RONNIE BROWN, individually and on behalf of all Wrongful death beneficiaries of Betty Sue Dunn Gray; WILLIAM BROWN, individually and on behalf of all Wrongful death beneficiaries of Betty Sue Dunn Gray PLAINTIFFS
SCOTT DALTON, individually and in his official capacity as officer for the Alcorn County Sheriff's Department; CHARLES RINEHART, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Alcorn County, Mississippi and as supervisor of Scott Dalton; ALCORN COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, a political subdivision of the State of Mississippi; and JOHN DOES 1-10 DEFENDANTS
ORDER ON RECONSIDERATION
Sharion Aycock U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Court entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order on January 6,
2017 granting in part and denying in part the Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment. Those Defendants have asked for
a reconsideration of three points: (1) the Court's denial
of qualified immunity for the individual officer, (2) the
Court's lack of finding as to the County's liability
under the Fourth Amendment, and (3) the Court's denial of
summary judgment as to Plaintiffs' state law wrongful
death and gross negligence claims. After reviewing the
motion, responses, rules and authorities, the Court hereby
GRANTS IN PART the request for reconsideration and alters its
judgment as follows:
noted in the Memorandum Opinion, Wilburn Gray claimed that
Defendants illegally detained him in violation of the Fourth
Amendment at the Alcorn County Jail from December 23 until
December 26 without a judicial hearing on probable cause
Court held that based on the United States Supreme
Court's general presumption that “[j]udicial
determinations of probable cause within 48 hours of arrest
will, as a general matter, comply with the promptness
requirement of Gerstein”, County of
Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44, 56, 111 S.Ct.
1661, 114 L.Ed.2d 49 (1991), together with the state statute
citing 48 hours as the threshold for probable cause hearings,
and no explanation from the Defendants as to why there would
be that delay, that the “clearly established”
prong of the qualified immunity analysis was satisfied. The
Court then found that genuine issues of material fact as to
whether Dalton's actions were objectively reasonable
existed based on the absence of a factual record.
now seek reconsideration based on a recent United States
Supreme Court proclamation regarding the blanket of qualified
immunity. Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity if
their conduct “does not violate clearly established
statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known.” White v. Pauly, No.
16-67, 580 U.S. __, 137 S.Ct. 548, 552, 2017 WL 69170, at *4
(Jan. 9, 2017) (quoting Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct.
305, 308, 193 L.Ed.2d 255 (2015)). A right is clearly
established if it is sufficiently clear that “every
reasonable officer” would have understood that what he
is doing violates that right. Mullenix, 136 S.Ct. at
308, 193 L.Ed.2d 255 (quoting Reichle v. Howards,
566 U.S. 658, 132 S.Ct. 2088, 2093, 182 L.Ed.2d 985 (2012)).
The Supreme Court has repeatedly instructed that courts must
not define clearly established law “at a high level of
generality.” White, 137 S.Ct. at 552; see
also Mullenix, 136 S.Ct. at 308, 193 L.Ed.2d 255;
City & Cty. of San Fran., Cal. v. Sheehan, 135
S.Ct. 1765, 1775-76, 191 L.Ed.2d 856 (2015). Instead, the
Court must identify clearly established law which is
“particularized” to the facts of the case.
White, 137 S.Ct. at 552 (quoting Anderson v.
Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 97 L.Ed.2d
523 (1987)). Although the Supreme Court does not require a
case directly on point, existing precedent must have placed
the statutory or constitutional question “beyond
debate.” Id. at 551 (quoting Ashcroft v.
al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741-42, 131 S.Ct. 2074, 179
L.Ed.2d 1149 (2011)).
of focusing on the more general constitutional issue
regarding time, the Court should have, and now does, examine
the facts and circumstances of this particular case to
determine whether Wilburn Gray's constitutional rights
Wilburn Gray was physically arrested by Deputy Scott Dalton
who immediately handed Gray over to Deputy David Harrison for
transport to the Alcorn County Jail. Dalton was soon
thereafter placed on administrative leave due to his role in
the shooting incident. Dalton was not released from
administrative leave until January or February of the next
year. The record is undisputed in these regards.
failed to put forth any case law showing facts approximating
those present here. The United States Supreme Court recently
admonished a lower court for “fail[ing] to identify a
case where an officer acting under similar circumstances . .
. was held to have violated the Fourth Amendment.”
White, 137 S.Ct. at 552. The Supreme Court quoted
the Circuit Court's pronouncement that the case
“presents a unique set of facts and
circumstances” as indicative that the officer's
conduct did not violate a clearly established right.
Id., 137 S.Ct. at 552 (quoting Pauly v.
White, 814 F.3d 1060, 1077 (10th Cir. 2016)).
the qualified immunity standards as articulated, to
demonstrate that Defendants unreasonably detained Gray,
Plaintiff must present controlling authority that
“squarely governs the case here,
” and that would have put “beyond
debate, ” the question of whether Wilburn Gray's
Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Plaintiff did not
carry this burden. There is no controlling case law involving
sufficiently similar circumstances that would apprise every
objectively reasonable officer that he had further duties and
obligations to ensure a probable cause hearing to a suspect
once custody of that suspect is relinquished to another
officer and even after he was placed on administrative leave.
This case presents a “unique set of facts and
circumstances” which require the Court's
reconsideration. Accordingly, Deputy Scott Dalton is entitled
to the protections of qualified immunity.
also contested this Court's failure to dismiss the Fourth
Amendment detention claims against the County despite the
request to do so in the Motion for Summary Judgment.
Plaintiff failed to bring forth a policy or custom on which
the alleged constitutional violation would be based at that
juncture, and has additionally failed to contest the
dismissal at this stage. Thus, the Fourth Amendment illegal
detention claims against the County are dismissed as well.
Defendants ask the Court to reconsider its denial of summary
judgment on Plaintiffs' state law wrongful death and
gross negligence claims. Earlier, the Court noted that a
question of fact exists as to whether Dalton acted with
reckless disregard for Betty Gray at the time of the
incident. Defendants attempt to characterize the standard
used in the Court's Fourteenth Amendment analysis as
precluding the Plaintiffs' state law causes of action.
The Court will not reconsider this ruling.
Motion to Reconsider  is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
PART. The remaining claims will go to trial on March 13,