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Harris v. Hardeman County Sheriff Dept.

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

May 18, 2015

MARTHA J. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
HARDEMAN COUNTY SHERIFF DEPT., et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

EDWARD G. BRYANT, Magistrate Judge.

Now before this Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of the Defendants Roger Sturgis and Patrick Perry [D.E. 55]. The pro se Plaintiff Martha Harris was granted additional time to respond to this Motion, which she timely filed on January 6, 2015 [D.E. 59]. In this case, the Plaintiff's sole remaining claims against these Defendants are (1) excessive force against Sturgis for his use of a taser on or about November 13, 2013, and (2) excessive force against Perry for allegedly striking her in the breast because she stood up. (See Order of Partial Dismissal, D.E. 7, p. 2-3.)

RELEVANT BACKGROUND

Excessive Force Claim - Sturgis

The first of the two incidents underlying this lawsuit occurred when Roger Sturgis, a Hardeman County Sheriff's Deputy, was dispatched to 539 L. Crisp Road in Hardeman County, Tennessee due to an aggravated burglary complaint. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶¶ 3, 8.) After Sturgis's arrival, the victim indicated that the Plaintiff Martha Harris, also known as Martha Valentine, entered the victim's residence without his permission. This had happened on previous occasions. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 9.) Additionally Harris has a history of arrests and convictions for crimes ranging from resisting arrest to assault on an officer. (Decl. bof Sturgis, ¶ 6.) Deputy Sturgis was aware of many of these incidents during his interactions with Harris on November 10, 2012. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 7.) While Sturgis was present, Harris returned to 539 L. Crisp Rd. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 10.)

Plaintiff in her response disputes that she went to Mr. Murphy's residence and stated she was going "to the girl house that night behind his house."

Sturgis asserts that he informed Plaintiff that she could not be on the property. She began to argue with Sturgis and became angry. She began yelling at Sturgis. As she continued to yell and get angry, Sturgis informed her that she was under arrest and that she was going to be taken to jail. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 10.) At that point in time, she continued to act belligerently, and began to walk away from Sturgis in an evasive manner. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 11, Exhibit A to Decl. of Sturgis.) Sturgis ordered her to stop and she did not. Instead, she continued walking away. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 12.)

Plaintiff disputes that she argued with Sturgis. (Response p. 2).

Sturgis drew his taser, and fired it in dart mode. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 13.) As Sturgis fired the taser, Harris turned around to face him. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 14.) The probes did not establish a good connection and Harris remained standing. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 15.) Harris continued to yell, and refuse to cooperate, and actively resist arrest. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 16.) Sturgis closed the distance between himself and Harris and used to the drive-stun mode on his taser to take Harris to the ground. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 17.) Once Harris was on the ground, Sturgis ordered her to place her hands behind her back. Harris continued to lie on her arms and refused to provide them. Harris continued resisting. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 18.) Sturgis then used the drive-stun function to tase Harris one more time. Harris then placed her hands behind her back. Sturgis handcuffed her, placed her in his patrol vehicle, and transported her to the Hardeman County Jail. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 19.)

Throughout Plaintiff's Response, she denies that she was ever belligerent and uncooperative.

Harris was charged with Aggravated Burglary Criminal Trespassing, and Resisting Arrest for her actions on November 10, 2012. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 20; Exhibit B to Decl. of Sturgis.) Harris pleaded guilty to Resisting Arrest, and Criminal Trespassing. (Decl. of Sturgis, ¶ 20; Exhibit B to Decl. of Sturgis.)

Excessive Force Claim - Perry

The second incident serving as a basis of Plaintiff's lawsuit occurred on December 17, 2012. Captain Leonard Brown and Deputy Patrick Perry conducted a disciplinary board hearing with Harris in the Hardeman County Jail. (Decl. of Perry, ¶ 9.) Perry was aware of many of Harris' previous arrests, convictions, and history at the jail. (Decl. of Perry, ¶ 8.) During the December 2012 disciplinary hearing, Harris was seated in a chair in front of Perry and Captain Brown, who were also in a seated position. (Decl. of Perry, ¶ 10.)

According to Defendants, Harris began to get angry as the Disciplinary Board began and said that she was going to leave. Deputy Perry ordered her to stay. (Decl. of Perry, ¶ 11.) Harris then stood up abruptly and began to move towards the door in an aggressive manner. (Decl. of Perry, ¶ 12.) Knowing Harris' history of aggressive and violent behavior, Perry knew it was important for her to remain seated and under control. (Decl. of Perry, ¶ 13.)Perry immediately stood up and used a soft, empty handed technique to place Harris back into her chair. (Decl. of Perry, ¶ 14, Exhibit A to Decl. of Perry.) Perry used his left hand, in an open position, to gently strike Harris in the chest and guide her back to her seat. (Decl. of Perry, ¶ 15, Exhibit A to Decl. of Perry.) Perry did not use any other force during the incident. (Decl. of ...


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