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Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Detainee’s Dirty Dog Cage Case Can Continue

(CN) - A former bailiff in Missouri who transported a detainee to trial in a dog cage littered with feces and urine is not immune from prosecution, the 8th Circuit ruled.

Armand Zefferi, formerly of the Crawford County Sheriff's Department, considered Thomas Morris III an escape risk because he had attempted to kick his way out of a moving police car six years earlier.

However, such security concerns did not justify the "humiliation and degrading treatment" of forcing the nearly 6-foot tall, 150-pound man to ride in a 3-foot-tall cage covered in dog feces and urine for the 90-minute drive to court, the St. Louis-based appellate panel ruled.

The panel upheld a district court ruling denying Zefferi qualified immunity from prosecution after Morris sued the bailiff for civil rights violations.

Morris was a "presumed innocent pretrial detainee" when he was "forced to crawl into a small cage littered with dog hair, excrement and dried urine," wrote Chief Judge William Riley for the appellate panel. "He was then required to lie in an uncomfortable position while restrained by a waist belly chain, handcuffs and ankle restraints, for a 90-minute car ride."

Zefferi argued that Morris's previous escape attempt, coupled with a lack of other available transportation at the time, created exigent circumstances.

The panel was unconvinced.

Riley wrote there was "no compelling urgency" or danger that would require the inmate to be transported in a dirty dog cage, and that Zefferi's action "sufficiently shows the possible infringement of a clearly established constitutional right to be free from improper punishment."

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