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Court to Hear Inmate's Smoke Suit

June 30, 1992|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Monday it will decide whether nonsmokers in prison have a constitutional right to be free from secondary tobacco smoke.

The court agreed to review a Nevada inmate's claim that environmental tobacco smoke unlawfully threatens his health. A decision is expected in 1993.

A federal appeals court ruled exposure to secondary smoke can be a constitutional violation if it poses an unreasonable health risk.

But Nevada officials argue: "Permitting inmates to prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim . . . that exposure to others' tobacco smoke 'may' create a possible future health risk takes away from prison officials the discretion and flexibility needed to properly and safely classify and house inmates." The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said convicted killer William McKinney is entitled to a trial for his lawsuit, which seeks monetary damages and to have him placed in a smoke-free environment.

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