Learning more about this fearless crusader who takes on the cruelty and cover-ups internal to the Florida Department of Corrections? Physical abuses and medical neglect still happen far too often behind those barbed fences. It takes a hero to seek justice for the plethora of injustices.
Attorney J. Scott Murphy
3117 Edgewater Drive, Suite A
Orlando, FL 32804-3721
Offers Free Initial Consultation
Atty Murphy became the voice for Jeremiah Tatum, a former inmate at a Chipley prison who was assaulted by five Florida Department of Corrections officers and is now suing the state agency claiming negligence and a long-standing culture of violent abuse and cover-ups. Tatum was beaten and sprayed with a chemical agent when he was taken from his cell and violently taken down.
During the 2015 Legislative Session, Tallahassee, FL, advocate Judy Thompson publicly shared a report alleging officers at the NorthWest Florida Reception Center took pleasure in spraying chemical agent into inmate cells as an early gift on Christmas eve 2014. And despite reports to the Legislature, Wardens, Regions and Central Office, horrific and inhumane abuses still occur.
Jeremiah Tatum is seeking damages following his Aug. 5, 2014, assault by officers at the Northwest Florida Reception Center. William F. Finch, Robert L. Miller, Dalton E. Riley, James F. Perkins and Christopher B. Christmas, were indicted in February 2015 on charges of conspiring to violate Tatum’s civil rights. They were fired from DOC as a result of their arrest. Each pleaded guilty in federal court.
Tatum, who was serving a seven-year sentence for cocaine trafficking and is scheduled for release in 2020, claims in the lawsuit that inmates at the Chipley facility have for years been the target of beatings at the hands of correctional officers. He has been transferred and is serving his sentence at Union C. I. In addition to violence against inmates, Tatum claims officials ignored inmates’ complaints regarding “cruel and sadistic acts” and failed to investigate grievances. “FDOC negligently supervised the individual correctional officers, explicitly and implicitly allowing and fostering an environment which encouraged the use of unlawful force on inmates,” contends the lawsuit filed in Leon County by Tatum’s Orlando attorney, J. Scott Murphy.
Reports by the officers involved in Tatum’s incident were falsified by Finch, then a sergeant, to say the take-down was in response to the inmate spitting in Capt. James Kirkland’s face. Kirkland directed the other corrections officers to commit the assault and then to falsify reports to conceal it. A DOC Inspector General’s report found Kirkland lied about the incident as a pretext to the assault. All five defendants were fired following the incident. Kirkland reportedly committed suicide in December 2015. The lawsuit, which names the executor of Kirkland’s estate, said he threatened to fire officers who did not go along with his directives. The suit claims Kirkland summoned the other officers to take Tatum from his cell as retribution for getting a chemical agent on Kirkland and grabbing his identification card during an earlier confrontation. No one objected when Kirkland asked if anyone had an issue with the situation.
A video of the event captured Tatum, who was in hand, ankle and leg restraints, being thrown to the ground. The video also shows a then 31-year-old Tatum being slammed face first onto a concrete floor by sergeants Finch and Riley. Perkins jumped on the back of Tatum’s legs and then pressed the inmate’s body toward the ground using his hands. The lawsuit contends, “At no point was Tatum offering any resistance to correctional officers and did not have any weapon and was essentially defenseless against the correctional officers’ wrongful and malicious use of force.”
Courtesy of Karl Etters, Staff Writer, Tallahassee Democrat, Jan. 9, 2017
Thank you Atty Murphy for taking a case that most lawyers would avoid. It’s about time someone from the legal community stepped up for those who suffer and die at the hands of brutal officers employed in our state prisons at tax payers expense! Successful litigation does up the ante.
Scott Murphy’s practice is devoted to complex Personal Injury cases, including Medical and Professional Malpractice and Products Liability, as well as Insurance Coverage and Consumer Fraud cases. The firm has achieved exceptional results in these areas.