Plaintiff: Milton Price
Defendants: D.C. government, Department of Corrections Director Devon Brown, Deputy Warden Stanley Waldren, Sergeant Bernard Hall, Officer Austin Whitby Jr.
Damages Sought: Unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, plus legal fees
Complaint: Milton Price was bound for the D.C. Jail’s regular cellblock until an officer saw him using a contraband cup, landing him in “administrative segregation” with a new cellmate—murder suspect “Dock” Roach. Roach made Price uneasy, and he asked for a transfer, but it appeared that the men wouldn’t have to share a room for long. After more than two weeks, a discipline board told Price that he could go back to the jail’s general population. So he sat tight, but in the meantime, Roach had made a knife. Price again asked an officer if he could change cells. The officer said to talk to Hall. While Roach seemed to be sleeping, Price wrote a note to the sergeant: “I need to move. There is too much tension in this cell.” When he passed the note, Roach heard it and told Hall that unless the officers moved Price out, Roach would stab him. “Do what you do,” the sergeant allegedly replied. Fifteen minutes later, Roach stabbed Price in the back of the head and pummeled his face, landing a fist in Price’s left eye. After midnight, with blood running down his head, Price asked Whitby if he could move. Whitby said that was the sergeant’s decision and walked away. It took another hour before someone noticed Price’s injuries and got help. Price was taken to Greater Southeast Community Hospital, where he received 12 stitches in the head. He now suffers damaged vision, headaches, and neck pain.
Quality of Representation: Excellent. Attorneys Allison Lefrak, Eric Dubelier, Philip Fornaci, and Ivy Lange keep the narrative moving swiftly. Then they drop the body blows: “Upon information and belief, prison staff…have the responsibility for the safety of inmates and the security of the unit to which they are assigned.”
Summary Judgment: Holy shiv! Let’s go through this again: You lock a guy up with another guy who wants to kill him, you ignore the warnings, you refuse to transfer the potential victim to another cell, and you’re slow to respond when he gets stabbed in the head. If this sounds familiar, it should. The same thing happened in 2003 to Rashann Howard (“The Hard Cell,” 6/20/03). Odie Washington was in charge of the department then, and defendant Brown is in charge now. Not much else changed, it seems. Plaintiff wins. Since this is a civil case, no one’s getting locked up, but we note for the record: Next time Roach needs a cellmate, defendants Hall and Whitby seem like excellent candidates.