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Eighth Circuit Upholds Arkansas Jailer’s 78-Month Sentence for Brutalizing Prisoners

Eighth Circuit Upholds Arkansas Jailer's 78-Month Sentence for Brutalizing Prisoners

The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the criminal conviction of an Arkansas jailer for violation of the civil rights of two prisoners whom he beat maliciously and sadistically. The court found the evidence more than sufficient, even though the injuries suffered were not exceptionally grave.

Jody Ray Miller, supervisor at Arkansas' Craighead County Jail, was convicted of brutally beating two prisoners upon their booking. On March 29, 2004, Miller struck handcuffed non-aggressive prisoner Climmie Jones in the head with a closed fist. When Jones fell to the ground, Miller kicked and stomped Jones with his boots, calling Jones "a nigger." Miller instructed jailer Arlen Whitley to write a "good [i.e., false] report," which he did. But Whitley later confessed to the Sheriff.

On April 1, 2004, Miller similarly beat a handcuffed nonviolent Terry O'Neil, kicking him (while he was lying on his stomach) in the head and chest. Miller exhorted, "I bet you won't ever fuck with the police anymore." Again, Miller directed that a false "good report" be written.

Other jailers who witnessed Miller's behavior stated that there was no legitimate law enforcement reason for it. Jones and O'Neil charged Miller with criminal violation of their Eighth Amendment rights under 18 U.S.C. § 242. Miller was found guilty and sentenced to 78 months.

On his appeal, Miller alleged insufficient evidence to show sadistic or malicious behavior. In essence, his defense was that he didn't beat his victims hard enough. "The fact that Miller may have been able to inflict even greater injuries ... does not make the attack any less malicious or sadistic," the court held, noting that pain alone is enough to allow recovery for an Eighth Amendment violation. Miller's other appellate contentions were also rejected. Accordingly, he now has 78 months in federal custody to hope he doesn't run into anyone who wants to "fuck with the police." See: United States v. Miller, 477 F.3d 644 (8th Cir. 2007).

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Related legal case

United States v. Miller