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Watts v. Pickett

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division

November 13, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Jody Bradley, Richard Pickett, Diania Walker, and Gabriel Walker's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 65), Plaintiff Carl Watts (“Watts”)' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc 67), and Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker's unopposed Report and Recommendation (Doc. 75). Having read the Motion, memoranda in support, applicable statutory and case law, and being otherwise fully informed in the premises, the Court ADOPTS Magistrate Judge Parker's Report and Recommendation.


         Plaintiff Watts is a post-conviction inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), who is currently housed at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility (“WCCF”). Watts filed this civil-rights lawsuit on March 27, 2017 alleging that several prison officials failed to protect him from harm from other inmates.

         Watts alleges that on November 7, 2007, he was housed in protective custody “Delta Pod” in cell 212. He worked as an orderly at the prison, which involved passing out food and cleaning the cell zone. Watts claims that Defendant Officer Richard Pickett entered his zone on November 7, 2017 and that, while Pickett was within earshot, inmates Randy Williams, Phillip McClendon, Leo Perez, and Gary Hughes, in cells 109 and 110, were yelling that they were going to attack the Plaintiff when he passed out breakfast that morning.

         Watts claims that Officer Pickett then unlocked cells 109 and 110 despite instruction from another correctional officer that the only cells to be opened that morning were Watts' cell (212) and inmate Kenneth Brewer's cell (209). Watts, under oath, testified that he told Officer Pickett that he did not want to come out that morning to do his orderly duties because inmates were threatening him. However, Watts claims that Officer Picket ignored the threats and opened his cell anyway.

         When Watts left his cell to get the breakfast trays, inmate Randy Williams entered Watts unlocked cell and hid inside. Watts passed out the trays and then Officer Pickett left the zone. When Watts returned to his cell he was attacked by Williams who allegedly stabbed and bit him. Williams called for help during the fight. Phillip McClendon, Leo Perez, and Gary Hughes then entered the cell and assaulted Watts. McClendon allegedly stabbed him in the leg, and they stole his belongings. Several officers entered the zone and handled the situation. Watts was then taken for medical attention.

         While Watts was receiving medical treatment, he told Unit Manager Diania Walker and Deputy Warden Gabriel Walker to put “red tags” on the inmates who assaulted him, i.e., a request to be kept separate from the inmates. After his medical treatment, Diania Walker took Watts to long-term segregation. Plaintiff claims that Diania Walker told him on December 12, 2016 that he was being transferred back to the Delta-Pod (“D-Pod”). Watts objected to being returned to the zone where he was assaulted and asserts that Deputy Warden Gabriel Walker ordered Diania Walker to put him back in the D-Pod. Watts was not assaulted when he was put back in the D-Pod, but he started a fire on May 30, 2017 so that he would be removed from the zone. At the time of the omnibus hearing, Watts was no longer housed in the D-Pod.

         Standard of Review

         A party is entitled to summary judgment if the movant “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence at the summary judgment stage of litigation. See Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009)(citing Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2010)). All facts and inferences must be made in “the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” See Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assoc., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010)(citation omitted). “It is improper for the district court to ‘resolve factual disputes by weighing conflicting evidence, … since it is the province of the jury to assess the probative value of the evidence.'” McDonald v. Entergy Operations, Inc., 2005 WL 2474701, at *3 (S.D.Miss. Apr. 29, 2005) (quoting Kennett-Murray Corp. v. Bone, 622 F.2d 887, 892 (5th Cir. 1980)).


         Defendant Pickett

         The Court agrees with Magistrate Judge Parker's recommendation to deny summary judgment on this claim. Watts sues Defendant Pickett for failing to protect him from the attack on November 7, 2016. To establish a § 1983 failure to protect claim against a prison official, a plaintiff “must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm and that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his needs for protection.” Neals v. Norwood, 59 F.3d 530, 533 (5th Cir. 1995)(citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994)). To act with deliberate indifference, “the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Deliberate indifference is “an extremely high standard to meet.” Gobert v. Caldwell, 463 F.3d 339, 346 (5th Cir. 2006).

         There is dispute as to whether Watts told Officer Pickett that he was afraid of the other inmates or if he communicated his fear of the four attackers prior to the altercation. Pickett claims that Watts never voiced any concerns to him. However, Watts testified at the omnibus hearing that Officer Pickett should have clearly heard the other inmates yelling threats at him and that he had reported his fear to Pickett that morning. This creates a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether or not Pickett was aware of the threat ...

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