Michigan — August 2, 2011 at 1:10 pm

MI Supremes say rape victim cannot sue sheriff dept where she was raped while in custody


Stuff like this is why it’s so goddam important to turn over that ballot on election day and vote for the Supreme Court justices. With Republicans in charge in Michigan, this is the kind of ruling you get:

The state’s highest court says a Fowlerville woman who was sexually assaulted by a deputy inside the Wayne County Jail cannot move forward with her civil lawsuit against the county and its Sheriff’s Department.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled the county and Sheriff’s Department cannot be held “vicariously liable” for former Officer Reginald Johnson’s “unforeseeable criminal” behavior that was “committed outside the scope of the employment.”

The Fowlerville woman had been arrested in Livingston County in 2001 on an outstanding warrant for unpaid child support and was transferred to Wayne County Sheriff’s Department’s custody for an outstanding warrant on a probation violation.

It was there, she said, that Johnson placed her into a cell infested with cockroaches. When she begged to be let out, Johnson led her to a private office, where he sexually assaulted her.

UPDATE: The Supreme Court’s decision is HERE (pdf).

More from the Lansing State Journal:

Johnson was on duty alone and made sexually charged comments to the woman, offering her better treatment in exchange for sex. She refused, but he later took the woman to an area not covered by security cameras and assaulted her.

What’s worse, the guy wasn’t supposed to be alone with female inmates but was given an exception.

Female prisoners are never to be left alone with male guards under county jail policy, but a supervisor overruled the policy because Johnson happened to be the only deputy available when the arresting officer presented the woman at the jail intake area, according to the court’s opinion.

The guy who raped her was found guilty and sent to prison. This ruling throws out the window a 15-year old decision that said employers have responsibility when underlings or and recipients of public services are sexually assaulted by its supervisors.

The 34-page decision upended a unanimous 1996 state Supreme Court opinion that the employer was responsible in such cases. The four justices – Robert Young Jr., Mary Beth Kelly, Brian Zahra and Stephen Markman – said the early decision was wrong and unworkable because it lacks hard guidelines and forces judges and juries to reach decisions “according to their subjective whims.”

So, she was in jail for not paying child support, was forcibly raped by one of her guards, but the sheriff’s department is off the hook. And the Supreme Court members who voted against her had to go against a previous judicial ruling in order to let them off the hook.

Today’s Republicans: harming America.