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Jones v. Claiborne County

April 18, 2007

RICHARD JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CLAIBORNE COUNTY, TENNESSEE, DEPUTY STEVE CLINE, AND DEPUTY JIMMY SEALS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Phillips

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This lawsuit arises out of a domestic disturbance call that led to Jones' arrest for aggravated assault and resisting arrest. A criminal jury found Jones not guilty of aggravated assault against his wife, but guilty of resisting arrest. Plaintiff Richard Jones has sued Claiborne County and Deputies Steve Cline and Jimmy Seals, in their individual capacities, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Jones alleges: (1) that he was arrested and prosecuted for aggravated assault without probable cause; (2) that the deputies used excessive force in making his arrest; and (3) that Claiborne County had a policy or custom that proximately caused these constitutional violations. The defendants have jointly moved the court for judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's claims. For the reasons which follow, defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.

Factual Background

This lawsuit arises out of a domestic dispute between Richard and Tina Jones. Some of the incident was caught on audiotape when Tina Jones called 911 and the dispatcher remained on the line with her during the incident. On December 25, 2004, at 3:36 p.m. Tina Jones called Claiborne County 911. Following are excerpts from that call:

Tina Jones: Ma'am, would you send the police to 193 Woodview Circle. My husband's got a sawed-off shotgun. Richard Jones. Send a sheriff out here right now.

Dispatcher: Okay, ma'am, where's he at?

Tina: He's right here in the yard. I was gonna leave and he messed my car up where I can't, and then he's got a sawed-off shotgun on me. . . .

Richard Jones: You let the son of a bitches come out here.

One minute later, Claiborne County Deputy Steve Cline was dispatched to the scene. The following conversations occurred prior to Deputy Cline's arrival on the scene:

Dispatcher: Okay. I've got officers en route to you.

Tina: I tried to leave and he went down there and done something to my car where I can't leave.

Dispatcher: Okay, ma'am. What's your . . .

Tina: And he's gonna hurt me. I can tell you that.

Dispatcher: Okay, where . . .

Tina: He's gonna hurt me. He's gonna kill me is what he's gonna do.

Richard: Oh no. There ain't nobody gonna (inaudible)

Tina: I'm telling you, he is crazy.

Dispatcher: Ma'am, what's your . . .

Tina: He yells at me from the time I get up til I go to bed at night.

And then when I try to get away from him, he won't let me leave.

Dispatcher: Okay ma'am, what's your name?

Tina: Tina Jones

Dispatcher: Okay, what, where is he at now?

Tina: He's sitting in here in the dining room with a shotgun in his lap.

Richard: Tell 'em to come on. Not afraid.

Tina: See. He is. He's crazy I'm telling you.

Richard: Tell 'em they better have a warrant when they come.

Tina: You hear him?

Richard: You've got to have a damn warrant.

Tina: See, listen at him. He is crazy, I'm telling you.

Richard: (Inaudible)

Tina: He done something to my car. The car's in my name, it ...


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