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First Circuit says seriously beaten prisoner fails to prove guard’s indifference

The First Circuit Court of Appeals held that a prisoner failed to establish that a guard was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs after he was seriously beaten by other prisoners.

While at a New Hampshire medium-security prison on August 24, 2012, prisoner Jonathan Leite walked into another prisoner’s cell. Two other prisoners followed, and Leite was severely beaten. The planner of the attack, prisoner Jonathan Gelinas, placed Leite on the bottom bunk to make “it look like he was sleeping” as other prisoners cleaned up Leite’s blood and vomit.

Guards soon came to make a round. Leite alleged that guard Kathy Bergeron “had a culpable state of mind of deliberate indifference to his need for medical care, based on the cursory manner in which Bergeron conducted” that round. He contended that “if Bergeron had done her job and looked in the cells” that “she would have found Mr. Leite in the wrong cell, would have confronted him regarding prohibited ‘cell hopping,’ and would have immediately discovered that Mr. Leite was seriously injured and in need of medical care.”

Shortly after that round, Leite stumbled to his cell and laid down. Bergeron noticed nothing on her next round, and that round was not at issue. His injuries were detected when he failed to stand for count about an hour and a half after the attack. Leite was subsequently taken to a hospital, where he stayed for two weeks, and was treated for contusions, skull and facial fractures, inter cranial bleeding, and residual cognitive deficits.

The First Circuit found there was no evidence that Bergeron was aware of a risk specific to Leite, and it was developed that she or the prison had a policy, or even a practice, of never looking at prisoners in cells or bunk beds during rounds.

The district court’s grant of summary judgment was affirmed. See: Leite v. Bergeron, (1st Cir. 2018)

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Related legal case

Leite v. Bergeron