CINCINNATI — A reasonable jury could conclude that an Ohio sheriff's deputy accused of slamming a handcuffed inmate's head into a wall was acting with a "malicious and sadistic attempt to inflict injury," an appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The decision, issued by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, allows Phillip Cordell, 53, to proceed with his excessive force lawsuit against Greene County Deputy Glen McKinney.
Neither McKinney nor his attorney immediately responded to requests for comment.
Cordell, of Yellow Springs, said in his lawsuit that he was handcuffed and being cooperative on July 20, 2009, when McKinney rammed his head into a wall in retaliation for cursing at him and calling him a name.
The lawsuit says that Cordell needed five stitches to close a wound above his eye and that a local hospital diagnosed him with whiplash after the incident.
McKinney has denied wrongdoing in court and said that he used "the minimum amount of force necessary to control" Cordell, who McKinney said tensed up while he was being walked down a hallway and turned his head around despite orders to stop.
In granting McKinney immunity in the lawsuit last year, a federal judge said that Cordell's accusations were uncorroborated and that McKinney's use of force was justified.
The 6th Circuit's ruling Wednesday reverses that decision, finding that "if Cordell's accusations are accurate, it would appear that Deputy McKinney behaved brutally, even cruelly, toward Cordell."
"A reasonable jury could find that Deputy McKinney lacked a good-faith reason to use Cordell as a human battering ram," the 6th Circuit judges wrote. "Cordell's arms were cuffed behind his back, and Deputy McKinney had Cordell in a submission hold ... It is hard to understand — even being deferential to Deputy McKinney's split-second judgment — how a prisoner in such an incapacitated position would present a sufficient threat to justify the extreme use of force that Cordell accused Deputy McKinney of using."
David Singleton, an attorney who represents Cordell and the executive director of the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice & Policy Center, said after the ruling that he's satisfied the case is going in front of a jury.
"All we want at this point is our day in court," he said.
Cordell was at the jail awaiting transfer to a federal facility after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He was released in October after serving about four years
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