JACKSON (AP) – A jury has awarded $1,251 to a convicted killer who filed a lawsuit after he was barred from touching his wife during a Michigan prison visit.
Kevin King claimed a guard was retaliating against him for past complaints when she prohibited him from embracing his wife during a 2012 visit at the Cotton prison in Jackson. They had to sit a few feet apart.
Jurors in Detroit federal court last week awarded $1 for a violation of King’s First Amendment rights and $1,250 as punitive damages.
In court filings, the Corrections Department argued it was “de minimis” – no big deal – and didn’t violate the couple’s constitutional rights.
“It trivializes the First Amendment to allow such a minor occurrence to constitute an adverse action,” Assistant Attorney General John Thurber said.
But U.S. District Judge Matthew Leitman had refused to dismiss the case before trial, saying the Kings had been deprived of their “sole form of intimacy.”
The state “substantially understates the value of human contact in general and its special value to the Kings. … It was certainly meaningful for Williams to deprive them of physical contact,” the judge said, referring to prison officer Tiffaney Williams.
King, 52, is serving a life sentence for murder committed during an armed robbery in Oakland County in 1982.
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