Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More Prisoner Cases-- Diets, Runestones and Prejudicial Trial Statements

In Nelson v. Miller, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69578 (SD IL, Sept. 20, 2007), a federal Magistrate Judge refused to dismiss a suit brought by a prisoner claiming that the prison chaplain would not allow him to receive a vegan diet for religious reasons, even though other prisoners could do so. Plaintiff is a Roman Catholic who also follows the Rule of St. Benedict which forbids eating the flesh of any four-legged animal.

In Keen v. Noble, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69629 (ED CA, Sept. 20, 2007), a California federal district court refused to dismiss a federal prisoner's complaint that his free exercise rights were violated when prison authorities refused to provide him with runestones for his Asatru religious practices. However the court agreed with a Magistrate's recommendation to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds plaintiff's complaint that he was denied a hof. The court also held that RFRA does not authorize the award of monetary damages.

In Shabazz v. Martin, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70342 (ED MI, Sept. 24, 2007), a Michigan federal district court denied plaintiff prisoner a new trial. Plaintiff had claimed that his defense counsel had made prejudicial comments during trial when, in questioning a witness, he referred to Plaintiff and other leaders of the Nation of Islam as "clerics" and "imams". The court rejected plaintiff's argument that this gave the jury a false impression that his religion was connected with the Sunni or Shiite doctrines in the Middle East.

In Henderson v. Virginia, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70207 (WD VA, Sept. 21, 2007),a Virginia federal district court rejected a prisoner's claim that he was denied participation in the Ramadan fast as retaliation for "a verbal altercation" he had with prison officers. The court found that plaintiff did not show intentional conduct by defendants, did not show a retaliatory motive, and that in fact he was able to fast by saving food from his other meals.

In Conyers v. Abitz, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70322 (ED WI, Sept. 21, 2007), a Muslim inmate was refused participation in the program that gave late meals during Ramadan because he missed the sign-up deadline. the court held that genuine issues of fact exist as to whether the deadline applied to this inmate, whether he had adequate notice of the deadline and whether the prison had a sufficient penological justification to impose the deadline.