McCottrell v. White, No. 17-2295 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Two Stateville inmates, struck by buckshot fired by prison guards, sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, asserting that the guards violated their Eighth Amendment rights when they discharged their shotguns over a crowded prison dining hall. The guards claimed that they fired the shots as a necessary warning to two other inmates who were fighting and resisting the efforts of guards on the floor, armed only with pepper spray, who were trying to break up the conflict. The inmates claimed that the shots were fired after the fight had been broken up and that the officers did not aim their shots at a "shot box" intended to prevent ricochets. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit vacated, noting that the force was more than de minimus and that the allegations would support findings of intent to make contact and of malice. Many of the facts are disputed. Construing the facts in favor of the plaintiffs, the force applied was grossly disproportionate to the force that could plausibly have been thought necessary.