Judge dismisses most of inmates’ jail claims

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – A consolidated lawsuit by three former Lee County inmates about treatment in jail has fallen apart, just days before going to trial in federal court.
Plaintiffs Jeff W. Tucker, William Turner and Chris Cosner, representing themselves, filed separate suits in 2009 against the state of Mississippi, Lee County jail, Sheriff Jim Johnson and jail officers Joseph Royce, Sgt. Mitchell Bridges and Sgt. Ronnie Partlow.
While their claims varied by their alleged experiences, two men said the state and Lee County failed to protect them from physical harm while they were in jail.
What’s left of their case, consolidated in October, is scheduled for trial on Feb. 14 in Oxford.
Tuesday, Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills dismissed all defendants except Royce in one case, and ruled in favor of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, Johnson, Bridges and Royce in the other cases.
Only Turner and Tucker’s claim that Joseph Royce failed to protect them from the attack of other inmates will proceed, Mills’ order stated.
They also complained that they were denied attendance at church services, but the judge said safety considerations overruled their free exercise of religion.
Mills also said the men’s claims regarding the general conditions of their confinement will be dismissed.
He wrote in the order that none of the plaintiffs identified “a policy, practice or custom” of Lee County, the sheriff’s department or the Lee County Board of Supervisors, which led to an alleged assault Oct. 2, 2008.
Mills dismissed all of Cosner’s claims, and also said Partlow was dismissed from the suit because no plaintiff alleged he committed any constitutional violations.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.