- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

WOODWARD, Okla. (AP) - A federal appeals court says two Woodward County jailers must face a lawsuit filed after a man in custody was beaten by other inmates who had threatened him.

Jennifer Collison and Jeremy Cannon claimed immunity from a lawsuit filed over the way they performed their official duties, The Oklahoman reported (https://bit.ly/1XoEip6 ). The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver disagreed Thursday, saying the pair had “a constitutional obligation to protect a prisoner who had been plausibly threatened with serious harm by fellow inmates.”

According to the court, the jailers put Cory Wright in a cell after he was picked up on a complaint of driving under the influence of alcohol. The court said inmates already in the cell had threatened to harm Wright, but Cannon said he didn’t hear the threat. Wright was beaten within a minute of being placed in the four-person cell that already held five inmates.

Wright died later, apparently of unrelated causes, and his estate is moving forward with the lawsuit.

The judges said a jury might want to hold Collison and Cannon responsible for Wright’s injuries. A reasonable juror could believe that the jailers’ decision to put Wright in the cell, “rather than keeping him in their custody while deciding where best to place him,” showed they might have been recklessly negligent, the court wrote.

Oklahoma officials had cited the jail at least seven times between 2007 and 2011 for violations based in part on overcrowding, the judges wrote. The county has since built a new jail.


Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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