Inmate from WF allowed to sue Lubbock prison officers for unsanitary cell conditions after U.S. Supreme Court ruling

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WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 2 that a Texas psychiatric prison inmate from Wichita Falls can sue six prison officers after the inmate filed a complaint.

Trent Taylor, 33, alleged he was left for six days in two different cells covered in either feces or sewage.

Taylor’s fiancé Maria Rios told Texoma’s Homepage what Taylor told her about his experience.

“Everything from the windows to the floor was covered in feces,” Rios said.

Taylor is now in the John B. Connally Unit in Kennedy Texas, serving time for injury to an elderly person and aggravated robbery.

Before that, in 2013, Taylor was an inmate at the John T. Montford Psychiatric Facility Unit in Lubbock.

While he was there from Sep. 6 to Nov. 5, Taylor alleged that for six of the days he spent at John T. Montford, he was forced to live in two separate cells that were covered in either feces or sewage.

“He would ask for something to drink. He would ask for a shower. He would ask for them to relocate him, and he was met with derision and they laughed at him,” Rios said. “They ignored him.”

Because of the alleged cell conditions and behavior of prison officers, Taylor filed a lawsuit on his own in 2017 against six prison officers and lost.

Taylor then filed a lawsuit with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and lost again.

After the appellate courts, Taylor’s case caught the eye of Attorney Samuel Weiss, the founder of prisoner advocacy group Rights Behind Bars.

Weiss filed a motion to ask the Supreme Court to take Taylor’s case and that was also denied.

“From there, I was able to partner with an elite law firm here in Washington D.C., and we worked together to write a petition of certiorari to the Supreme Court, which [the Supreme Court] has been considering ever since it came back in session at the end of September,” Weiss said.

The Supreme Court then ruled on Nov. 2 in favor of Taylor, reversing the appellate court’s decision and now allowing Taylor to sue the prison officers.

The reason Taylor’s case was denied by the appellate courts is because the court ruled that the officers were protected by qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects public officials from civil cases and only allows lawsuits where violations of constitutional rights are clear.

“There is still value in this idea that if actions are obviously unconstitutional, there doesn’t need to be an identical precedent on point to deny a defendant qualified immunity, and that goes for a prison guard, but it also goes for a police officer,” Weiss said.

Taylor’s lawsuit against the prison guards will now go in front of a jury.

“It’s affecting people of all colors, all races. It is something that should have limitations because no one should be treated like that ever,” Rios said.

Since Rights Behind Bars is based in Washington D.C., Weiss can’t practice in the Texas federal courts unless they have another Texas lawyer.

That is the next step.

Weiss said, “We’re hoping with the publicity from the Supreme Court case that we’ll find a Texas lawyer who will partner with us on trial, and then we’ll be able to represent in him in trial.”

Taylor and Rios said Weiss and his group have been a big help in their case.

Although the battle has been long and tough, they’re not giving up.

“He’s been fighting seven or eight years on this case. He has fought way too hard with and without representation to let it go,” Rios said.

As Taylor, Weiss and Rios hope to begin trial in the next few months, Taylor said this fight isn’t just about him, but about the rights of all other prisoners.

Taylor was denied parole for his charges in January but is expected to be released from prison in April 2021.

Texomashomepage reached out to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for comment on the allegations.

“TDCJ cannot comment on pending litigation. The recent Supreme Court decision in this case is currently being reviewed.”

TDCJ Director of Communications Jeremy Desel

To read the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Taylor’s case, click here.

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