Memphis Police Taped Beating Transsexual Detainee - $1.3 Million Lawsuit Filed, by Mary Neal
Duanna Johnson is filing a $1.3 million lawsuit for her beating while in custody of Memphis/Shelby County police officers, which was caught on tape. A local television station carried the news story and a copy of the raw video on June 18, 2008.
The film shows Duanna Johnson, a transsexual, being beaten and maced in February 2008, as she was restrained in her chair in the jail’s holding area by one policeman, while another beat her to the floor. The force of his blows was allegedly compounded by holding a pair of cuff links in his wielding fist. I wondered if this was also done to my brother, Larry Neal, who was secretly incarcerated until death in that same facility in 2003. Transsexuals and homosexuals are regarded by many people as being mentally ill, and some police will not tolerate mental illness in their prisoners.
Duanne Johnson has a right to freedom of sexual expression, but I suspect that to James Swain, Bridges McRae, and all the officers who voiced no objection to their abusive behavior, this inmate was just another nutcase who needed to be beaten to her senses. At least four federal lawsuits were filed against Shelby County Jail and the police department over the past two years for the abuse and murders of mentally ill subjects in custody. Yet, our Justice Department apparently can/will do nothing to curb violence against Americans with disabilities in custody there. Note that the officer who held Ms. Johnson still for her beating was not even discharged, but merely placed on desk duty.
Because transsexual persons probably meet the Bluff City's police standard for deviant behavior, or mental illness, Ms. Johnson will need better luck in her lawsuit against Shelby County Jail and police there than the three mentally ill victims and their families who filed suit against those defendants in 2005/2006 for abuse and wrongful death. Their attorney reportedly had a heart attack right after filing their federal lawsuits, and as far as I know, their cases remain stalled to this day:
Ms. Johnson's lawsuit will certainly require better legal representation than the case of Larry Neal, who died under secret arrest in that facility in 2003. The Cochran Firm is accused of merely holding his family's case against Shelby County Jail inactive for 10.5 months while the statute of limitations ran and the law firm pretended to represent them in a wrongful death action.
CORRECTIONThe WREG report stated that the officer who HELD Ms. Johnson still for her beating (Swain) was the one who was fired by the time this piece was written. The officer who actually BEAT Ms. Johnson unmercifully (McRae) was the one placed on desk duty. Excuse me, please. Who would have thought the police officer who actually beat this "innocent until proven guilty" subject to the floor would be the one the Memphis Police Department "punished" with desk duty? I read the full news report, but had trouble absorbing this idea. Justice issues can be very confusing. President Sewell, of the Memphis Police Association, said the film shows some "good things in the tape for this officer." I guess this is a commendation for not Tasering Ms. Johnson to death, and McRae did seem to return to Ms. Johnson to ensure that her beating had been effective. Pardon me for the error.
UPDATE - June 25, 2008
OFFICER McRAE FIRED
Officer McRae was fired after an administrative hearing which followed an outcry by the gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual community. More information and an uncut version of the film are available at the below link:
SEE INTERVIEW WITH MS. JOHNSON, VICTIM OF POLICE ATTACK:
OFFICER FIRED OVER BEATING HAD OTHER ACCUSERS
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Friday, June 27, 2008
During the last three years, residents accused former Memphis police officer Bridges McRae of beating up a mentally ill man, using excessive force, spouting racial slurs and stealing some money. None of those complaints was substantiated after they were investigated by internal affairs. . . . Police Director Larry Godwin said if an officer receives multiple complaints, the department may move the officer to another precinct to see if the complaints continue.
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill
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Stone Mountain, Georgia, United States