Wilkerson v. Wheeler

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 11-18-2014
  • Case #: 11-17911
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

Instructions by a court to the jury that a prisoner had been disciplined for resisting officers in the past is prejudicial and improper when a prisoner's indeterminate life sentence is not at stake, and the instruction is misleading and prejudicial on the grounds that it contradicted the prisoner's testimony, in a proceeding alleging excessive use of force in restraining a prisoner.

Adonai El-Shaddai, a.k.a. James Wilkerson, filed suit against correctional officers at High Desert State Prison in California, for the use of excessive force in restraining him while he was incarcerated. Wilkerson sued the officers and the prison librarian under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that they violated his federal constitutional rights. Wilkerson appealed on the grounds that: (1) the district court improperly instructed the jury that he had previously resisted officers; (2) the district court abused its discretion by excluding certain witnesses and evidence; (3) the district court abused its discretion in failing to appoint counsel for Wilkerson; and, (4) the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Sgt. Turner, one of the defendants, for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The Ninth Circuit held that the jury instruction was misleading and prejudicial. Since the panel "vacat[ed] the district court's judgment and remand[ed] for new trial on the basis of flawed jury instructions," the panel declined to address Wilkerson's other assignments of error. REVERSED, VACATED and REMANDED.

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