Sunday, February 05, 2006

Split decision for jailers on qualified immunity in suicide case

In Short v. Smoot, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Chief Judge Wilkins, joined by the E.D. Va.'s Judge Kelley, with Judge Gregory concurring in part and dissenting in part, reversed the denial of qualified immunity as to one group of jailers while affirming the denial of qualified immunity as to the jailer who sat watching the video monitors while the plaintiff's decedent rehearsed and implemented his suicide in a jail cell. The majority concluded that under Fourth Circuit law, the other jailers could have believed that their constitutional obligations were satisfied when the decedent was placed in a cell with video monitoring. Judge Gregory disagreed, and would have affirmed Judge Wilson's opinion as to all of the defendants. The videotape left the defendant in charge of watching the video monitor with no immunity defense.

The AP had this somewhat garbled account of the decision.

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