Saturday, May 28, 2022

Updated: Judge throws out death-penalty defendant James Bradley’s ‘cruel and unusual punishment claims as frivolous

James Opleton Bradley was brought to the New Hanover County Detention Facility to stand trial for the murder of Elisha Tucker. While in the county jail, Bradley claims his civil rights were violated.

A handwritten legal filing by James Bradley Bey, a.k.a. James Opleton Bradley. The convicted murdered and death-penalty defendant is alleging he was the victim of numerous civil rights violations and abuses while held at the New Hanover County Detention Facility. (Port City Daily photo / New Hanover County Sheriff's Office)
A handwritten legal filing by James Bradley Bey, a.k.a. James Opleton Bradley. The convicted murdered and death-penalty defendant is alleging he was the victim of numerous civil rights violations and abuses while held at the New Hanover County Detention Facility. (Port City Daily photo / New Hanover County District Court)

Update: The complaint filed by James Opleton Bradley (a.k.a. James Bradley Bey) has been dismissed as frivolous by a New Hanover County Superior Court Judge, according to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. This article will be updated today with additional information when the Clerk of Court responds.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Convicted murderer James Opleton Bradley, currently facing a death-penalty trial for a third murder, has filed a legal complaint against New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon, along with a detention center officer and the facility’s healthcare provider, for “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In his hand-written complaint, Bradley alleges “numerous” civil rights violations, including withholding of adequate medical care, denial of access or communication with his attorney, harassment over his religious behavior, and in general accuses the New Hanover County Detention Facility of being “dysfunctional.”

Bradley filed the suit under the name James Bradley Bey, but signs it with his North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) inmate number. (“Bey” is a Turkish honorific, used in some circles to denote someone who’s joined the Islamic faith; in his complaint, Bradley identifies as a Muslim.)

Bradley’s third murder trial

In late December 2018, Bradley was temporarily moved to New Hanover County from the Tabor City Correctional Institute to stand trial for a third murder; Bradley is accused of killing 33-year-old Elisha Tucker, who disappeared from downtown Wilmington in 2013. (Port City Daily photo / New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office)
In late December 2018, Bradley was temporarily moved to New Hanover County from the Tabor City Correctional Institute to stand trial for a third murder; Bradley is accused of killing 33-year-old Elisha Tucker, who disappeared from downtown Wilmington in 2013. (Port City Daily photo / New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office)

Bradley is currently serving a 30-to-37-year sentence for the second-degree murder of Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk, who was last seen in downtown Wilmington in early April of 2014. Although Van Newkirk’s body was never found, District Attorney Ben David secured a conviction in 2017.

Bradley has previously served 23 years after initially serving a life sentence for the murder of Ivy Gipson, his 8-year-old step daughter, in 1988.

In late December 2018, Bradley was temporarily moved to New Hanover County from the Tabor City Correctional Institute to stand trial for a third murder; Bradley is accused of killing 33-year-old Elisha Tucker, who disappeared from downtown Wilmington in 2013. Her body was found in April of 2014, stuffed in a trash bag and buried on a Hampstead-area farm where Bradley worked.

The jury for the trial was sat last week, and the trial began under Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser this week.

After being briefly returned to Tabor City prison, Bradley is again being held at the New Hanover County Detention Facility and has appeared at trial each day in New Hanover County Court.

This is the first death penalty trial in the region in 15 years; according to a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s office, “the last death penalty trial in New Hanover County was the trial of Paul Dewayne Cummings in 2004 for the murder of Jane Head. The last death penalty trial in Pender County was the trial of Terrance Campbell in 2002 for the murder of Buddy Hall.”

Bradley’s complaints

From James Opleton Bradley's complaint against New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon. (Port City Daily photo / New Hanover County District Court)
From James Opleton Bradley’s complaint against New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon. (Port City Daily photo / New Hanover County District Court)

Bradley’s complaints stem from his initial stay in the New Hanover facility, from Dec. 17, 2018, to Jan. 8, 2019. Bradley alleges that while the writ to move him from Tabor City to New Hanover was lifted on Dec. 21, an “oversight” at the District Attorney’s office caused him to be held through for several weeks.

Bradley claims he was admitted to a cell with feces-smeared light fixtures and walls and wasn’t given cleaning supplies. He also claims he was given just one pair of socks and underwear for three weeks. Access to his attorney was blocked, Bradley claims, when detention facility staff denied his request to use the phone and refused to provide him writing paper, envelope, and stamps to mail a letter for about two weeks.

Bradley also claims the staff of Correct Care Solutions / WellPath, the company contracted by the detention center for medical services, denied him adequate medical attention. Bradley, who claims to be recovering from double eye surgery, alleges that WellPath waited over a day to treat him, charged him a co-pay without providing a follow-up, and failing to provide prescription eye drops – which had been sent from the Tabor City prison along with Bradley – for about a week. Bradley also claims he had an allergic reaction to the deodorant issued to him, although medical staff did provide hydrocortisone to treat the resulting rash.

According to Bradley, his “freedom of religion” was also denied; Bradley alleges he was denied his Qur’an and other “Islamic reference materials.” He also claims that while attempting to pray, detention center staff played Christmas carols over the intercom in his cell, an act Bradley calls “accursed.”

Damages and relief

Bradley is suing Sheriff McMahon personally for $5,000, alleging that McMahon has “allowed a vile environment of apathy, unprofessionalism, bullying and inadequate healthcare to develop within the detention facility.” In addition, Bradley requests that McMahon undertake personal “walk-throughs” to assure the cleanliness of the detention facility, as well as to establish protocols to protect freedom of religion, mental health screening, and to overhaul the grievance process for inmates.

Bradley is also suing an officer in the detention center for $5,000, claiming this deputy was responsible for depriving him of medical care and access to his attorney, as well as verbally assaulting him. Bradley is also asking the deputy be suspended pending an internal investigation.

Lastly, Bradley is requesting that the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office “dissolve” its contract with WellPath and contract with a new agency that can provide adequate care. Bradley is also suing WellPath for $2,500 for “gross negligence.”

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on pending litigation. Correct Care Solutions / WellPath did not respond to requests for comment.


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

 

 

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