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Indiana Prisoner Receives $200,000 in Excessive Force Case

Indiana Prisoner Receives $200,000 in Excessive Force Case

An Indiana federal jury has awarded a state prisoner $200,000 for a guard’s use of excessive force. The claim arose from an incident that occurred at the Wabash Correctional Facility on April 21, 2005.

That was the day when prisoner Vernon A. Hendrickson, 51, exchanged harsh words with Sgt. Scott Cooper. Naturally, what actually occurred was sharply disputed by the two parties. Cooper alleged that he was maintaining order when he “gently pushed” Hendrickson. According to Cooper, the push caused Hendrickson to collide with a wall and the ground, which was the end of the matter.

Hendrickson, a self-described “cripple,” contended there was much more to the incident than that. He maintained that Cooper was trying to bully him, and when he resisted the bullying in a way that didn’t threaten security, Cooper used excessive force to send him a message of who was in control.

Hendrickson claimed that Cooper threw him into a wall. As he lay on the ground, Cooper then jumped on him and drove a knee into his back. Hendrickson already suffered from degenerative disc problems, and he claimed this increased his back pain. Cooper argued there was no competent proof that he had caused Hendrickson any injury.

The jury accepted Hendrickson’s account of what happened, finding that Cooper had used excessive force. The jury’s April 1, 2008 verdict awarded $75,000 in compensatory damages and $125,000 in punitive damages. Hendrickson litigated the matter pro se until almost the eve of trial; he was represented at trial by attorneys Phillip J. Fowler and Kenneth J. Munson. See: Hendrickson v. Indiana Department of Corrections, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ind.), Case No: 2:05-cv-00268-LJM-WTL.

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Related legal case

Hendrickson v. Indiana Department of Corrections