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Michigan Prisoner’s Failure to Protect Case Settles for $100,000

The State of Michigan has agreed to pay a prisoner $100,000 to settle a failure to protect lawsuit filed in federal court.

In 2007, Joseph Lyons, 42, was serving a larceny sentence at a Jackson, Michigan prison. He was forced to share a cell with Vernard “Bone” Meadows, 31, who was serving time for second-degree murder. “He had a very short fuse ... I feared for my life every time I had to get locked down with him,” Lyons testified during a deposition. Lyons claimed that Meadows once threatened to “butcher” him because he had passed gas.

Lyons begged unit manager Kelly Holden-Selby for a new cellmate. However, she became angry that Lyons had smoked a cigarette before meeting with her. “She stood up and she yelled at me to go brush my teeth,” said Lyons. Holden-Selby claimed that she could not recall conversations with Lyons about his fear of Meadows. Yet even Lyons’ parents had called the prison to express concerns about his safety.

Lyons was later found in a pool of blood after Meadows beat him with a metal bar. He spent weeks in a hospital for a closed-head injury which caused him to suffer memory loss and other permanent health problems. Meadows was disciplined for assaulting Lyons, according to prison spokesman Russ Marlan.

Lyons filed a federal lawsuit against Holden-Selby and another prison employee. “He complained of an imminent threat from a cellmate,” said his attorney, John T. Alexander. “Our allegation is the unit manager took it lightly.”

A federal magistrate judge recommended that the suit be dismissed, but U.S. Chief District Court Judge Gerald Rosen rejected that recommendation. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office then advised prison officials to settle the case for $100,000, according to Marlan. Lyons agreed that $21,000 of the November 2010 settlement would go to his victims and any unpaid court costs and fines. See: Lyons v. Michigan DOC, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Mich.), Case No. 2:08-cv-13631-GER-VMM.

Additional sources: Associated Press, Chicago Tribune

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