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Phillip Cordell

Actual security camera still of Phillip Cordell and Deputy Glen McKinney during the incident.
Actual security camera still of Phillip Cordell and Deputy Glen McKinney during the incident.

Basic human dignity for people in prison

OJPC won an important victory for the basic human dignity of people in prison or jail and their right to be free from unnecessary and excessive force. In 2014, we represented Phillip Cordell in his case against the Greene county jail. Phillip suffered serious injuries after having his head rammed into a wall by a deputy sheriff in retaliation for cursing at the deputy and calling him a name. Phillip was handcuffed and being cooperative at the time. He needed five stitches to close a wound above his eye and a local hospital diagnosed him with whiplash after the incident.

OJPC argued in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Phillip’s behalf. A three-judge panel ruled that a reasonable jury could conclude that the Ohio sheriff’s deputy was acting with “malicious and sadistic attempt to inflict injury.” The decision allowed Phillip to proceed with his excessive force lawsuit against Greene County Deputy Glen McKinney. “A reasonable jury could find that Deputy McKinney lacked a good-faith reason to use Cordell as a human battering ram,” the Sixth 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.”

Continuing our advocacy in District Court, OJPC ultimately settled the case on behalf of Mr. Cordell, who is now free. We are proud of our work on behalf of Phillip Cordell, and we will continue to serve and advocate for people in prison—to protect their basic human dignity and to ensure prisons are a place of rehabilitation.