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Prisoner Loses Excessive Force Case in 10 Minutes; Judge Deems Suit Frivolous, Orders $3,000 Paid to Defendants

Christopher Bookhart had a fool for a client when he represented himself in an excessive force suit he filed against a guard at the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) in Portland, Oregon.

Bookhart, 45, had sued MCDC guard Steven Meyer, alleging that Meyer had punched him in the chest without provocation on August 13, 2006. Bookhart also alleged that on November 6, 2006, an unidentified guard had injured his wrist by cinching his handcuffs too tight, creating a 1-inch scar. He sued for $11,110 in damages.

Bookhart represented himself during a two-day trial, during which he pointed his finger at witnesses as he questioned them and interrupted and argued with presiding Multnomah Circuit Court Judge Michael McShane.

The trial appeared to try McShane’s patience; he closed his eyes at times and breathed deeply while Bookhart repeatedly asked him what he should do next. There was a chorus of objections from the defense attorney.

Meyer admitted that he touched Bookhart, but insisted he had only tapped him lightly with a closed fist in a jovial manner. Another guard corroborated Meyer’s version of the incident. Meyer also claimed he wouldn’t have assaulted a prisoner when 15 to 20 other prisoners were present. “I would have got my head stomped in,” he said.

But Bookhart told jurors that the encounters had made him frightened of guards. “Even today, I still have a fear of being attacked,” he stated. Jurors didn’t buy his claims, returning a verdict in favor of the defendants in just 10 minutes. Following the verdict, things went from bad to worse as McShane called Bookhart’s suit frivolous and ordered him to pay the defendants $3,000.

Lt. Vera Pool, who works at the jail, noted it was not uncommon for prisoners to represent themselves in civil suits. “But,” she added, “it’s not recommended.” See: Bookhart v. County of Multnomah, Multnomah County Circuit Court, Case No. 07-11-12830.

Source: The Oregonian

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