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$145,000 Jury Award in Arizona Prisoner’s Excessive Force Suit

On October 2, 2014, an Arizona federal jury awarded a state prisoner $145,000 in a civil rights lawsuit over a guard’s excessive use of force.

Ron Zachary Pettit, 36, was a prisoner at the Arizona State Prison Complex - Eyman, Special Management Unit, when he was injured by guard Torrey Smith while guards Jose Luque and Scott Mueller looked on and did not intervene.

As Pettit was handcuffed behind his back being returned to his cell after taking a shower, Smith became verbally abusive toward him. Pettit entered his cell, backed up to the door and placed his hands through a slot in the door to have the handcuffs removed. Smith grabbed the lead chain and violently yanked Pettit hands backward and up and down for one to two minutes. This caused injuries to Pettit’s shoulders, arm sockets, wrists and right arm as well as emotional trauma.

With the assistance of attorneys Thomas D. Ryerson and Alexander W. Samuels, Pettit filed a civil rights action in federal court alleging violation of his Eighth Amendment rights and pendent state torts. Following a four-day trial, the jury deliberated for over five hours before returning a verdict awarding Pettit $100,000 in compensatory damages against Smith, Luque and Mueller; $25,000 in punitive damages against Smith; and $10,000 each in punitive damages against Luque and Mueller. The jury found in favor of a fourth guard who was not present for the assault. See: Pettit v. Ryan, U.S.D.C. (D. AZ), Case No. 2:11-cv-02139-DGC.

Additional source: The Trial Reporter of Central and Northern Arizona

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Related legal case

Pettit v. Ryan