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No Liability for Prison Killing by Mass Murderer

The decedent was brutally murdered by another prisoner who had previously murdered his two sons, his girlfriend, and a prostitute, who had a non-trivial disciplinary record, and who had written a letter to the warden from segregation describing himself as homicidal and depressed and "very close to committing mass murder." His case manager reported that he appeared capable of carrying out his threat, but a psychologist reported that he said he was just trying to get people to take him seriously. More than a year later, he killed the decedent in an unsupervised work area, stating later that he was just the nearest available victim.

The perpetrator's past record did not support liability of the warden for the murder. At 978: "... [P]rison officials are not required to segregate indefinitely all inmates whose original crimes suggest they might be capable of further violence." They relied on their general observation that lifers tend to avoid trouble and their specific observation of the assailant's nonviolent conduct in recent years in allowing him to live and work in general population, and did not thereby violate the Eighth Amendment rights of other prisoners. The threat of mass murder in the prison did appear to create a substantial risk of harm, but the warden's conduct in response to it was objectively reasonable, and then some 16 nonviolent months passed before the assault. A subsequent complaint about inmates controlling the telephone and request for transfer was also responded to reasonably, and there was no reason for the warden to know that he would then murder someone at random. See: Curry v. Crist, 226 F.3d 974 (8th Cir. 2000).

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Related legal case

Curry v. Crist