Detainee recounts hours spent in restraint chair in Clayton sheriff trial

Desmond Bailey still bears the scars — physically and mentally — from the hours he spent in a restraint chair two years ago in the Clayton County Jail.

He showed the physical scars on Tuesday to a federal jury in the second day of testimony in Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill’s trail for allegedly violating the civil rights of detainees at the facility he ran.

Bailey said he was confined in the chair for six hours, his upper torso bound by a strap from his chest to his waist and his legs tied to the chair’s base. Bailey said his hands were handcuffed behind his back, his wrists cut so deeply that they were left gashed, bloody and would later blistered.

Some spectators in the courtroom audibly gasped when prosecutors flashed pictures of the gaping wounds with one person involuntarily exclaiming, “Oh my.”

“It was horrible,” Bailey testified. “It is not anything that I would wish on anybody.

“Bailey added that the incident affected him so much that he would later have to be taken off an amusement park ride with his daughter because the safety bar sent him spiraling mentally.

Hill faces seven counts of violating the civil rights of detainees in the Clayton jail by strapping them into restraint chairs as punishment. Restraint chairs can only legally be used to subdue someone who is a threat to harm themselves or another person.

Hill has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Prosecutors allege that Hill ordered Bailey and others be put in the chair, even though each of the men was cooperative at the time of the lawman’s decision.

Defense attorneys have argued that the intake process — the time when each detainee named in the case was put in the chair — is one of the most volatile moments in jailing, and anything can happen.

Lewis Lyons, a former member of the Clayton Sheriff’s Office’s Scorpion Response Team, testified that if Hill ordered someone be put in the chair, only the sheriff or medical personnel could change that directive. If put in the chair by Hill, they would be confined for four hours, which follows the Clayton Sheriff’s Office guidelines, Lyons said.

Lyons also testified that he put handcuffs on Joseph Arnold, another detainee named in the indictment, as the man was being dressed down by Hill during questioning. Arnold was accused of assaulting two women at a grocery store. Lyons said Arnold started using his hands to explain what happened after Hill asked about the incident, but did not seem threatening.

Hill ordered that the chair be brought out, Lyons said.

But defense attorney Marissa Goldberg questioned the consistency of Lyons.

She pointed out that during the grand jury questioning leading up to Hill’s indictment, Lyons said he was aware of the accusations against Arnold before the man was brought to the jail. But on Friday, Lyons said he didn’t know anything about Arnold’s alleged crimes.

“You gave some statements (to the grand jury) about Mr. Arnold that are quite different than what you said today,” Goldberg said.

Defense attorney Drew Findling also seemed to suggest that Bailey’s wounds could have originated at the scene of his arrest. Bailey was arrested in February 2020 after fleeing from officers who had come to his home on a search warrant.

At the residence, they found nine guns — several of which allegedly had been stolen — and marijuana, methamphetamine and MDMA , also known by the street name “molly” or “ecstasy.”

Bailey sat in the back of a squad car for two hours before he was transported to the Clayton jail. He was handcuffed the majority of the time, except when he was allowed to briefly use the restroom.

Candace Blythe, who worked for Correct Health, the medical contractor at the jail, testified that she addressed Bailey’s wounds. She noted the blisters, bleeding and sores in at least three progress reports after Bailey was released from the restraint chair.

But when cross-examined, she admitted that she only saw Bailey after he was put in the chair, not when he came into the jail.