By Margo Kirchner
A person’s Fourth Amendment rights are not completely extinguished upon conviction of a crime, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held recently in overruling two prior cases that suggested otherwise.
In particular, the court concluded that the Fourth Amendment protects a convicted person’s right to bodily privacy, though the right is significantly limited.
The case stems from a prison training exercise in which women were forced, among other things, to undergo strip searches and stand for several hours without water or bathroom breaks as part of a training session for prison guards.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Circuit Judge Amy J. St. Eve wrote for the en banc (full) court in Henry v. Hulett. The decision reversed a lower district court’s dismissal of a class-action suit alleging Fourth Amendment violations and remanded the case for further proceedings. The lower court found that the women had no right to privacy after conviction.
In the lawsuit, Delores Henry and three other female plaintiffs alleged that strip searches conducted as cadet training violated their Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights. The women filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 200 former and current female inmates at the medium-security Lincoln Correctional Center in Illinois. Wisconsin also is in the Seventh Circuit, so the appeals court’s ruling applies here as well as in Illinois.
The training exercise in 2011 simulated a “mass shakedown,” in which guards search prisoners’ living areas and perform strip searches to find contraband.
No emergency or safety concerns existed on the day the training took place, and the two prison housing units searched were randomly chosen.
A tactical team called “Orange Crush,” Lincoln correctional officers, and cadets from the Illinois Department of Corrections training academy conducted the mass shakedown. Orange Crush members were outfitted with full riot gear, including helmets, armored vests, military boots, shields, batons, and pepper spray.
In the early morning, Orange Crush members banged batons on walls and doors of prison cells, and correctional officers and cadets yelled at inmates to wake up and get in line. Officers and cadets lined up 200 women facing the wall, and cadets handcuffed them as practice. Some elderly women cried in pain after standing handcuffed for a long time.
Officers ordered the women to the prison gym while screaming obscenities at them and calling them sexually derogatory names. In the gym, correctional officers forced the women to stand facing the wall, shoulder to shoulder. Orange Crush members and correctional officers ordered cadets to perform strip searches on groups of four to 10 women at a time. The women in the gym remained standing, with no water or restroom breaks. Some stood for seven hours.
Although female cadets performed the strip searches in a bathroom and beauty shop adjacent to the gym, those spaces were open and visible, allowing male correctional officers and cadets to view the searches taking place.
During the searches, the incarcerated women were ordered to remove all clothing; lift their breasts and hair; turn around, bend over, and spread their buttocks and vaginas; and cough several times. Women stood naked for as long as 15 minutes.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The number of positive coronavirus cases in the state prison system jumped by 56%, in just two weeks, Department of Corrections figures show.
There were 534 positive cases on Aug. 21 and 832 cases on Friday, Sept. 4, an increase of 298, the figures show.
The largest increase was recorded at Green Bay Correctional Institution. There were 185 incarcerated men who tested positive as of Aug. 21 and 270 positives on Friday, up 85.
Other significant increases were recorded at the Racine Correctional Institution (up 66, from 18 to 84), Dodge Correctional Institution (up 55, from 25 to 80), New Lisbon Correctional Institution (up 41, from 8 to 49), Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution (up 30, from 7 to 37), and the Milwaukee Women's Center, up 17, from 3 to 20.
"For a while I was at least able to say the staff here is at least keeping us fed but things have gotten so bad that today everything came to a head!!" one Green Bay inmate wrote. For the past week here they've trying to feed us old moldy food and the portions are literally the size of two spoons!!"
"Yesterday our dinner was four crackers and three meat balls, I mean literally that was our dinner!!" he said. "Today they gave us a small Styrofoam bowl of soup and two pieces of bread, I'm sad to say the prison turned into an insane asylum!! Guys got so fed up that they were throwing their food out of their cells at the walls and they were kicking the doors and screaming at the top of their lungs so for a good three hours...and staff refused to come around so there was food dripping off the walls and actually there still is food dripping off the walls because they refuse to come clean it up!!"
And another Green Bay inmate wrote: "For lunch yesterday we got a Styrofoam tray with an ice cream scoop's worth of 'chicken salad' and four ounces of peas. That's it. This is becoming the norm now. When inmates write to the kitchen about they are told it is within nutritional standards. At breakfast today we got a small bowl of cereal and a small piece (approx. 2"x 2") of 'coffee cake' An object that can only be described as being related to 'hardtack.'"
"People are getting sick and not being removed from general population."
While religious volunteers and family visitors are not allowed in the prison because of the pandemic, contractors are inside installing cameras, the inmate said. The contractors are not social distancing themselves from those incarcerated, he said.
As for those sick, he said, "They quarantine only those who develop extreme symptoms that needs direct medical attention. The dorm alone has over 60 infected people, which will be a matter of time before the entire dorm is infected."
"We are hungry and tired," another inmate wrote. "People are getting sick and not being removed from general population. According to staff there is no room to house them separately. But somehow they're finding a way to clear out 16 cells at a time to put in new sinks and toilets."
By Gretchen Schuldt
It was not improper for a judge to comment during a sentencing hearing on the changes he saw in people when they possess guns, the State Court of Appeals has ruled.
The unsigned opinion by a District I Court of Appeals panel upholds a post-conviction ruling by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Carolina Stark denying Octavia W. Dodson's request for resentencing for second-degree intentional homicide.
Dodson alleged that then-Circuit Judge M. Joseph Donald considered an improper factor – legal gun ownership – during the sentencing.
Donald now is a judge on the State Court of Appeals.
Dodson argued that Donald believed him to be "a threat to society and had a ‘distorted view of the world’ because he was a lawful gun owner.”
The appeals panel disagreed.
"When viewed in context...the trial court’s comments about Dodson’s unlawful use of his firearm were not improper," the judges said. "The trial court never stated, explicitly or implicitly, that it was basing its sentence on the fact that Dodson chose to exercise his right, as the holder of a concealed carry permit, to carry a concealed weapon."
The panel included Judges William W. Brash III, Brian W. Blanchard, and Timothy G. Dugan.
Dodson did not have a criminal record before he shot Deshun T. Freeman to death after being rear-ended in his car on March 25, 2016.
After the he was rear-ended, Dodson saw the other car involved, a Buick, back up. Dodson drew a semi-automatic handgun from its holster and the Buick left the scene. Dodson drove after it so he could, he said, get a license plate number.
As he drove, he switched out the gun's 10-round magazine for an extended 17-rounder, according to the decision.
Dodson eventually saw a car he thought was the one that hit him. Both cars parked on the side of the street. Dodson said a man got out of the Buick and ran toward him. Dodson later said he thought the man was pulling something out of his pockets or from under his shirt. Dodson, now standing outside his car, shot him – evidence indicated Dodson fired six times – then drove to his girlfriend's house, according to the decision. They talked, and Dodson drove to his father's house, calling 911 on the way.
Police were unable to confirm that the car driven by Freeman was involved in the accident.
Dodson pleaded guilty to second-degree intentional homicide and Donald sentenced him to 14 years in prison and six years of extended supervision, longer than the term recommended in a pre-sentence report, which was five to nine years in prison followed by a five-to-six-year term of extended supervision.
"In reviewing this case, I have to say I am completely baffled as to why this happened," Donald said during the sentencing hearing. "And I don’t think that there is any rational way of trying to explain it. I can tell you this, Mr. Dodson, that in my experience as a judge, I have seen over time how individuals when they are possessing a firearm, how that in some way changes them."
He continued: "It changes how they view the world. It changes how they react and respond to people. I know that this is only speculation on my part, but I do strongly feel that the day that you applied for that concealed carry permit and went out and purchased that firearm, and that extended magazine, (whatever) your rational beliefs for possessing it, whether you felt the need to somehow arm yourself and protect yourself from essentially the crime that is going on in this community, I think on that day set in motion this circumstance."
Later, Donald added it was "clear to me that you were operating under some misguided belief, some distorted view of the world that somehow Deshun Freeman was a threat to you when in reality it was nothing further from the truth.”
Dodson appealed, seeking resentencing.
Dodson contended Donald blamed him "not merely for the homicide, but for what the court viewed as putting himself on a path toward violence by lawfully obtaining a gun and a license to carry it. This assumption violated Mr. Dodson’s Second Amendment right to possess the firearm.”
Dodson also alleged that Donald made assumptions about gun owners and attributed negative beliefs he had about gun owners to Dodson.
The panel, in upholding Donald and Stark, wrote, "We are not persuaded that the trial court’s comments suggested that the trial court was punishing Dodson for exercising his Second Amendment rights. Here, the trial court’s comments indicate that it, like the parties, was trying to make sense of what appeared to be a senseless homicide committed by someone without a criminal history. The trial court noted that in its experience as a judge, people can change as a result of owning guns. Such an observation was not improper."
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