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Archive for the ‘Prison’ Category

The real injustice in the July 2015 death of Michael Sabbie at the hands of LaSalle Corrections personnel at Texarkana’s Bi-State Jail, in addition to the death itself, lies in the fact that the SETTLEMENT of the family’s lawsuit against LaSalle was allowed to be sealed, thereby forever shielding from public view the punishment imposed on the private prison for its gruesomely abusive treatment of Jones during his short time in custody leading up to his death.

Were it not for a 169-page March 6, 2019, ruling from FEDERAL MAGISTRATE CAROLINE CRAVEN denying defense motions for a dismissal of Teresa Sabbie’s lawsuit, some of those unimaginable acts by guards and nurses employed by LaSalle might never have been known. To read her lawsuit, click HERE.

That ruling also revealed that LaSalle routinely took shortcuts in falsifying certifications that employees had required training and experience when in fact, they did not.

Sabbie, 34, was arrested by Texarkana City Police on July 19, 2015, for a domestic disturbance and taken to Bi-State. Three or four days later (the exact date is uncertain because of the haphazard manner in which prison guards checked on Sabbie in his cell), he was dead after:

  • He was denied medication even though nurses knew he suffered from hypertension, diabetes, asthma and heart problems;
  • He was beaten by guards even though they later admitted he had made no hostile motions and offered no resistance to them;
  • Was pepper-sprayed despite his known respiratory condition and was subsequently inadequately decontaminated;
  • With his hands cuffed behind him, video showed that his hands were forced up and over his head until his hands ended up in front of him while still cuffed, actions that a doctor testified would have caused severe damage to his joints, muscles, tendons and shoulders – stress that should have triggered an immediate medical evaluation, though none was ever done.
  • Guards falsified reports indicating they checked on him every half-hour – even though one of the times logged in was 15 minutes after the guard had already ended his shift and gone home.

Judge Craven noted in her ruling that officers employed by LaSalle at the facility “testified (that) LaSalle gave them no training on recognizing potential signs of medical distress or signs that an inmate may need medical care.”

Guard Stuart Boozer, she said, testified that LaSalle provided no training on when to summon medical care for inmates and guard Robert Derrick added that “LaSalle did not train them they had an ‘obligation to secure medical care for inmates with series medical needs.’”

Officer Simone Nash “had only been working at the jail for about three weeks on July 21,” Judge Cravens said, quoting from Nash’s own deposition in which she testified that she had received only five days (40 hours) of classroom training even though she was required to receive a minimum of five days of on-the-job training before working alone but in fact had only two days’ experience working alone.

But the most damning testimony showed LaSalle’s willingness, even its insistence on having employees sign documentation attesting they had completed all necessary training when they had not. In fact, testimony showed, the employees were instructed to sign the documentation that they had completed training classes when such classes had not even begun.

Correctional Practices expert Capt. Kenny Sanders testified that his review of data revealed that LaSalle did not conduct training, training was being falsified, employees were given credit for training they did not attend and the training program “was not property supervised.”

And when all else fails, it seems that LaSalle is not above employing a bit of subterfuge – except it didn’t work.

Besides the individual guards and nurses named in Teresa Sabbie’s lawsuit, other defendants included Bowie County, Texas, the City of Texarkana, Arkansas, Southwestern Corrections, dba LaSalle Corrections, LaSalle Southwest Corrections and LaSalle Management Co.

LaSalle Management in its motion for summary judgment (dismissal), did so on the assertion that it had no involvement in the suit because it “merely provides accounting and payroll services for the other LaSalle entities.”

That claim relied on an affidavit of Rodney Cooper and a February 2013 Facility Operation and Management Services Agreement between Southwestern Correctional, LLC, dba LaSalle Corrections, and Bouie County, Texas for the operation of the Bi-State jail.

It turned out, however, that LaSalle Management’s motion was a tad incomplete in that it somehow neglected to include a “highly-relevant final page (or addendum) to that agreement,” Judge Craven wrote. That omitted page contained an acknowledgement that LaSalle Management was the “Parent Company” of Southwestern Correctional and as such, “LaSalle Management itself explicitly and ‘unconditionally’ guarantees ‘performance of all obligations and duties under and pursuant to’ the jail operations contract with Bowie County.”

After 168 pages of reviewing facts surrounding the incarceration, abuse and death of Michael Sabbie, Judge Craven wrote on the final page that LaSalle Management’s motion for summary judgment was denied.

LaSalle has managed to fly under the radar of the news media preoccupied with the spoiled brat behavior of the Trump administration, a drawn-out fight for the Democrat nomination of a candidate to oppose him, impeachment, claims and denials of Russian interference in our election process and, of course, the coronavirus pandemic.

But recent revelations about a whistleblower complaint of unsolicited HYSTERECTOMIES of female illegal immigrants at one of its facilities in Georgia has brought renewed attention to the Ruston-based company said to be worth upwards of $300 million and which operates several facilities in Louisiana, Texas and Georgia.

LouisianaVoice will continue its series about the company in the coming days.

 

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When the news broke last week about the widespread performance of HYSTERECTOMIES on Latino detainees at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, it sparked outrage and disgust, as it well should have.

But it might come as a surprise to some that this wasn’t the first rodeo for the Ruston, Louisiana, company that operates the detention center in Ocilla, Georgia.

Between May 2015 and June 2019, no fewer than six prisoners have died while incarcerated at the LaSalle-run Bi-State Jail and Annex operated in Texarkana, Texas, according to a federal LAWSUIT filed as a result of the most recent, the particularly gruesome June 17, 2019 death of Holly Barlow Austin, 46, was arrested on April 5, 2019, for probation violation and taken to Bi-State.

Bowie County in February 2013 contracted Southwestern Corrections, LLC, dba LaSalle Corrections to operate all aspects of the Bi-State Jail and the Annex, including the provision of medical care to inmates, pretrial detainees and post-conviction prisoners.

Texarkana attorney David Carter told LouisianaVoice that the lawsuit, filed in the Texarkana Division of U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, of behalf of Barlow-Austin’s mother and husband, is his fourth lawsuit filed against LaSalle and his third wrongful death case.

The one non-death case was that of William Jones was “released” to his sister by LaSalle after being beaten so severely at LaSalle’s Bi-State facility that he was near death when she had him transported to a hospital by ambulance. He was placed on a ventilator and remained hospitalized for nearly a month.

His crime? Jaywalking. But rather than addressing the constitutional deficiencies in Jones’s case, LaSalle sought to conceal facts “by destroying surveillance footage and other relevant information,” Carter said. We’ll have more on Jones’s case and others in the coming days. To do a single story on all of them together would be far too long and convoluted, so LaSalle is going to be treated to extended coverage much as we did Louisiana State Police under Mike Edmonson.

But as an example of one of the most glaring cases of neglect, cruelty and dereliction of duty, this post will dwell on the two and one-half months of Barlow-Austin’s pre-trial detention leading up to her last pitifully tragic 48 hours. To see a video of what torment and torture she experienced during those hours, click HERE. (WARNING: BECAUSE OF ITS GRAPHIC NATURE, THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT VIDEO TO WATCH.)

During those two and one-half months of incarceration, her physical condition deteriorated markedly though she was not released to an area hospital until it was too late.

And releasing critically ill prisoners to relatives or a hospital, is a tactic of subterfuge favored by LaSalle, says attorney Carter, because if the prisoner dies at home or in a hospital LaSalle is relieved of the responsibility of reporting an in-custody death to state corrections officials.

At the time she was admitted to Bi-State, she was living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and suffered from depression and bipolar disorder and was undergoing treatment for substance abuse. She was taking Triumeq for her HIV condition, Fluconazole for the treatment of potentially deadly fungal infections (including cryptococcal meningitis), and Quetiapine for her bipolar disorder and Citalopram for depression.

Despite that, on the morning of April 6, 2019, when she was admitted to Bi-State, her blood pressure was 118/73, which Carter described as “ideal” in his petition. The following day, the intake nurse faxed a request for information on her medical conditions to her outside medical provider. The LaSalle medical staff did not receive a response until May 13, however, five weeks after making the initial request. No follow-up request was ever made.

On April 8, Barlow-Austin’s husband brought her medications to Bi-State and later that same day, blood tests performed on her showed her white blood cell count (CD4) was 87, far below the normal range of 500-1,500, an indication that her immune system was compromised. She didn’t receive any of her medications, however, until April 17.

Her husband visited her several times and by April 30, it was apparent to him that her physical condition was in sharp decline. Her blood pressure had risen to 154/92 but she was given only a Tylenol by LaSalle staff.

When she complained of headaches and numbness in her legs, Michelle Arnold a registered nurse and the Health Services Administrator (HAS) employed by LaSalle (and one of the defendants in the lawsuit), told an outside mental health provider that Barlow-Austin “pretends to be weak” and “knows how to play the sickly role,” according to the lawsuit filed by Carter last Wednesday (Sept. 16).

Another check showed her blood pressure to be 160/90 and by now she had a urinary tract infection but again, LaSalle ignored her worsening condition, Carter said.

Michael Austin continued to visit his wife over the ensuing weeks and observed that her condition was becoming more severe. She was placed on medical observation on May 21, but no medical treatments were administered, the lawsuit alleges.

Over the next 10 days, the petition says, no LaSalle medical provider evaluated her nor were her vital signs taken. By June 1, she lost all strength and feeling in her legs and her eyesight worsened until she was finally totally blind and had to feel her way as she crawled around her room. “The ongoing failure to take her to the hospital was cruel and inhumane,” the lawsuit says.

A week later, an LPN “looked in Ms. Barlow-Austin’s cell. She wrote in her progress notes that the inmate remained in ‘med obs,’ meaning a medical observation cell.” The nurse wrote, “0 needs voiced at this time,” and “0 distress noted.” That would become a recurring notation on all the LaSalle reports, Carter said, adding that records and state-mandated logs of visual checks were routinely falsified by LaSalle staff.

“For the next 48 hours,” he said, “Ms. Barlow-Austin remained in this medical observation cell, which contains an in-house surveillance camera. The video footage is broken down into nearly two thousand video clips, most of which are between 30 seconds and two minutes long. In nearly all the clips…Ms. Barlow-Austin’s serious medical needs are plainly evident.

“It’s also plainly evident from the footage that Ms. Barlow-Austin has gone blind.” He said video footage “shows her crawling and blindly feeling her way around the cell. As the hours went by, guards would place a cup of water on the floor only to have her accidentally knock the cup over because she couldn’t see it. Meanwhile, guards would observe her as she unsuccessfully tried to reach for the water and then walk away. On another occasion, water is placed inside her cell but soon taken away before she can feel around for it. When she finally was able to get a drink, it was only because a fellow inmate held the cup and guided her hand to it. “After handing her the cup of water, the inmate sets the second cup on the floor and backs out of the cell, covering his nose with his shirt to protect himself from the stench emanating from her cell,” the petition says.

After 36 hours in the observation cell, Barlow-Austin had drunk only two small cups of water and it had been 18 hours since her last drink.

Even after she began displaying symptoms of mental confusion and delirium, none of LaSalle’s health care providers took action in response to her ongoing medical crisis.

At 7:22 p.m. on June 10, a guard opened a food tray slot and placed two paper cups of water on it. Barlow-Austin, however, had no idea that the water was there, only a few feet in front of her. She was lying on a mat soaked with her own urine and excrement, but was too week to flip the mat over and ended up lying back on it. By 9:30 p.m., it had been 21 hours since her last drink even though the two cups of water had been in her cell door’s food tray slot for two hours.

An hour later, at 10:22 p.m., a nurse entered the cell for the first time in the past 38 hours that Barlow-Austin had been in the medical observation cell. For the first time in more than two weeks, her vital signs were taken and her heart rate was 130 beats per second and her blood pressure 177/123, indicative of a hypertensive crisis. Still, no decision to call 911 was made, nor is there any entry in LaSalle’s records to indicate that those findings were reported to a higher-level medical provider.

Shortly before 8 a.m., she was moved to the facility’s medical lab where her heart rate was now 148 beats per minute, more than twice the rate when she was admitted. Her pupils were not reactive to light and it was only at that point that 911 was finally summoned.

Ms. Barlow-Austin didn’t suddenly take a turn for the worse on the morning of June 11, 2019,” Carter says in his petition. “Her medical condition warranted hospitalization long before then. (emphasis Carter’s). By the time LaSalle finally arranged for her to be transported to the hospital, she’d been complaining about increasingly severe symptoms for nearly two months. Despite her alarming and progressively worsening symptoms, LaSalle never arranged to have her evaluated by a medical doctor.”

“During the final 48 hours of her confinement, only one nurse entered her cell to check her vitals. This occurred on the night of June 10, 2019. LaSalle guard routinely walked by her medical observation cell window – either without looking in at all, or looking in and ignoring her filthy conditions, obvious pain, physical disability and blindness. Multiple guard violated their state-mandated obligation to conduct face-to-face checks every 30 minutes.

“No one from LaSalle informed Ms. Barlow-Austin’s family that she had been hospitalized – not her husband who frequently visited her in jail, and not her parents. Between June 11 and June 14, her family had no idea that she was in the local hospital, in critical condition, barely clinging to life.

“On June 15, 2019, Ms. Barlow-Austin’s husband went to visit her. When he arrived, LaSalle guards told him that his wife was no longer in the unit. When he asked why, LaSalle wouldn’t tell him.” The lawsuit said he didn’t learn where she was until the Bowie County sheriff told him. “When the family arrived at the hospital, the LaSalle guard wouldn’t let them visit her. Again, it required a call to the local sheriff for the family to get in to visit her.

Two days later, on June 17, she was dead.

“In the years leading up to 2019, (LaSalle) engaged in a patter, practice and custom of unconstitutional conduct toward inmates with serious medical need,” Carter said.

“In the years leading up to the death of Holly Barlow-Austin, LaSalle-run facilities in Texas routinely failed inspections. LaSalle has had ‘continual noncompliance issues in Texas, more than other jail operators in the state. LaSalle-run jails in Texas have been on the state’s noncompliance list every year between 2015 and 2019.

“LaSalle facilities have also come under scrutiny by state lawmakers for hiring a disproportionate number of ‘temporarily licensed’ corrections officers – taking advantage of a loophole that allowed correctional facilities to hire and staff their jails for up to one year with guards who hadn’t gone through the basic corrections training academy. LaSalle did this purely for monetary reasons and without regard for inmate health and welfare. Hiring these untrained guards was cheaper than hiring experienced guards or paying to send them to the corrections academy for basic training.”

Carter said LaSalle also failed to give guards state-mandated one-the-job training and that guards have engaged in a “persistent pattern” of falsifying training records. He said guards have testified that LaSalle literally instructed corrections officers to fill out training records attesting that their one-the-job training had been completed when in fact, it had not even begun.

“In addition to its inadequate training, the practice of insufficient staffing has been a well-documented and persistent problem at LaSalle-run Texas jails,” leading to several of the constitutionally-deficient practices for which LaSalle has been cited, Carter said.

“When LaSalle places an inmate on medical observation, zero medical monitoring takes place,” the lawsuit says. “Instead, corrections officers with no medical training or experience are put in charge of monitoring them and their so-called monitoring consists of guards quickly peeking in the calls – often while walking by without stopping.”

Additionally, the suit claims, LaSalle-run facilities have a “longstanding practice of poor medical record-keeping and miscommunication among jail medical providers. This has been a major problem at Bi-State Jail where medical records are routinely lost, and communication breakdowns are commonplace.”

The lawsuit then leveled a devastating charge when it said, “…the failure to secure needed medical care for Ms. Barlow-Austin was motivated, in part, by constitutionally impermissible profit-driven reasons. The corporate defendants (LaSalle) had a practice of submitting unrealistically low bids to get jail contracts. After securing the contracts, they would then cut costs, or keep their budgets unrealistically low to make money. This included hiring inexperienced jail guards and lower-level nurses and failing to invest in adequate training. It also included spending inadequate amounts on correctional medical care and habitually understaffing its facilities. It was foreseeable that LaSalle’s inadequate training, insufficient medical spending and understaffing would cause harm to inmates and detainees in need of medical care. In fact, these reckless profit-driven practices resulted in substantial harm to multiple inmates in the years leading up to Ms. Barlow-Austin’s confinement. And these same unconstitutional practices caused her unnecessary suffering and death.

“LaSalle attempted to circumvent the state-mandated in-custody death reporting requirement by releasing Ms. Barlow-Austin from custody at the hospital when death was imminent – later claiming that it didn’t have to report her death because she technically wasn’t ‘in custody’ when she died. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards later learned of her death from a third-party source and requested information from LaSalle. LaSalle only provided the commission a limited amount of information and failed to provide it with the shocking video footage. Still, on October 15, 2019, the TCJS found LaSalle to be out of compliance with jail standards for not following the instructions of designated physicians, not dispensing prescription medications, and not verifying the medication that Ms. Barlow-Austin’s husband delivered to the jail…”

 

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The Reconstruction era ended in 1877. Seven years earlier (150 years ago), with ratification of the 15th Amendment, black males were granted the right to vote.

Seventeen years before that, The Emancipation Proclamation of Jan. 1, 1863 said that “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

So, by 1880, blacks were not only free, but they had the right to vote. Federal troops had been withdrawn, so the time seemed right to restore the old order of white supremacy in the South.

But how?

Well, the Louisiana legislature had an answer that appeared to solve two problems at once.

Split jury verdicts.

Only one other state, Oregon, had the split jury conviction law on its books, and while still based on race, it had nothing to do with slavery. In that state, the law had been used to convict a Jewish defendant.

LOUISIANA took the lead over its sister Confederate states by passing a law that year which said a person could be convicted of a crime by a jury vote of 9-3. The Louisiana Constitution Convention of 1898 made it official and even went so far as to boast that the stated purpose was “to establish the supremacy of the white race in the state.”

The split verdict law withstood a legal challenge in 1972 when it was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court but in 1973, the Louisiana Constitution Convention did scale back the law a bit when it revised the law to require at least a 10-2 vote in favor of conviction—or acquittal. For capital murder cases, the requirement for a unanimous jury verdict has always remained in effect.

The dual effect was not only to discourage blacks from voting (only eight states allow convicted felons to vote—Louisiana is not one of them), but it also helped alleviate the “hardship” imposed on those poor plantation owners who, suddenly deprived of their slave labor, found themselves short-handed for harvesting cotton and sugar cane.

But a literal reading of the 13th AMENDMENT provided the all-important legal loophole:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. (emphasis added)

Blessed with rare economic foresight, the legislature saw an opportunity to pioneer what would evolve into lucrative prison work-release programs more than a century ago. (It would be the last time any Louisiana legislature would be accused of possessing the gift of economic foresight—except in cases of individual graft and corruption.)

The more inmates the state could crowd into its prison system, the greater the number of warm bodies available to be leased out to the plantation owners to harvest those crops to be shipped downriver to New Orleans and on to the world market.

Of course, a prison facility large enough to house a sufficient number of slaves prisoners was needed.

So, in 1880 (the same year the split-verdict law came into effect—coincidence?), ANGOLA STATE PRISON was erected on an 8,000-acre plantation in West Feliciana Parish, drawing its name from the African homeland of its former slave population. The prison was run by a private firm until reports of brutality against inmates prompted the state of Louisiana to take control of it in 1901. Today, it covers 18,000 acres, making it the largest maximum-security prison in the U.S.

But in October 2018, a brash, young judge up in Sabine Parish, hard on the Texas border, ruled that the split verdict in Louisiana was unconstitutional.

Judge Stephen Beasley, of the 11th Judicial District that borders Toledo Bend Lake on the Texas-Louisiana border, ruled as unconstitutional the case of Melvin Maxie who, by a jury verdict of 11-1, received an automatic life sentence by virtue of an 11-1 conviction of second-degree murder.

Beasley, who had presided over Maxie’s 2017 trial, also ruled that Maxie deserved a new trial on the grounds that prosecutors improperly struck three prospective jurors because of their race. His ruling was challenged by District Attorney Don Burkett.

His ruling came only three weeks before an election on a statewide constitutional amendment which would have struck down the split verdict in favor of unanimous verdicts for non-capital offenses. That proposed was easily approved by 64 percent of the vote.

And though the case decided by the Supreme Court was one out of Orleans Parish where District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro obtained a 10-2 conviction of second-degree murder, the high court opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch and supported by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, cited Beasley’s ruling twice in its first three pages. Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are appointees of Donald Trump.

Others siding with the majority were justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas. Dissenting were Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan.

The immediate effect of the decision is to void dozens—perhaps hundreds—of split jury verdicts in Louisiana and Oregon.

And perhaps create a manpower shortage in work-release programs throughout Louisiana.

 

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A politically-conservative organization is set to launch its campaign to rethink the issue of capital punishment next week in Baton Rouge but a press release on Tuesday indicates the group is more concerned with the cost of capital punishment in terms of dollars than in the human cost of lives adversely affected by numerous documented cases of wrongful convictions.

Louisiana Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, “a network of conservatives who question the alignment of capital punishment with their conservative principles,” will hold a news conference to officially announce the group’s formation next Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Capitol Park Event Center’s Fishbowl Conference Room at 702 River Road North in Baton Rouge.

Speakers scheduled for the event include:

  • King Alexander of Lake Charles, a member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee;
  • David Marcantel of Jennings, member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee;
  • Robert Maness of Madisonville, member of the St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee and unsuccessful candidate for a number of elected offices;
  • Marcus Maldonado of New Orleans, described as a “liberty activist;”
  • Hannah Cox, national manager, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

Louisiana is one of 12 state-based CCADP groups the press release says are “part of a nationwide trend of conservatives rethinking capital punishment.”

“The latest study shows the death penalty costs Louisiana taxpayers nearly $16 million a year more than life without parole, and this waste of money is a big reason why conservatives in Louisiana are speaking out against the death penalty,” Cox said. “For a state with one of the highest violent crime rates, Louisiana is flushing away enormous resources that could be used to make its people much safer.”

What the news release did not say was that no fewer than 60 Louisiana inmates have been exonerated after it was determined that they were wrongly convicted, according to the National Registry of Exonerations which lists more than 2500 exonerations nationwide.

Of those 60 Louisiana exonerations, 15 were on death row awaiting execution.

One of the principal reasons for the high number of wrongful convictions is that prosecutors are not held accountable in a country where virtually all but judges and prosecutors must answer for their actions.

District attorneys want a high rate of convictions to hold up to the public when re-election time comes around and if they have to fudge with the evidence in order to obtain a conviction, many prosecutors have no compunctions about doing so.

And why not? It’s practically impossible to successfully sue a district attorney for his actions and judges are absolutely immune.

A good example of how difficult it is to extract some measure of retribution from a DA can be found in the case of John Thompson of New Orleans. Convicted of a murder he did not commit because the DA withheld exculpatory evidence, he spent 14 years on death row before the Innocence Project of New Orleans obtained his freedom. He sued DA Harry Connick and won a $14 million judgment that was appealed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court which struck down the award. For 14 years of his life taken away by subterfuge on the part of the prosecutor, he got nothing.

Thompson died in 2017 at the age of 55, just 14 years after his 2003 exoneration. Fourteen years on death row followed by 14 years of freedom during which time the courts deprived him of any remuneration for the “inconvenience” of 14 years behind bars and now…he’s dead.

But sometimes the actions of a prosecutor can be so egregious that the protections against legal liability must be stripped away to allow the exoneree to seek recompense for the damages done to him and his family.

Apparently, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick felt that 21st JDC District Attorney Scott Perrilloux may have committed such a breach of protocol and ethics in a Livingston Parish murder conviction when she ruled that a lawsuit by Michael Wearry could go forward.

Dick, chief judge for the U.S. Middle District, ruled that Perrilloux’s “alleged use of intimidation and coercion to produced fabricated testimony went beyond the scope of the prosecutor’s role as an advocate of the state” by costing Wearry more than 20 years of his life on death row.

In light of Judge Dick’s ruling and a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that called the entire case “a house of cards,” Perrilloux’s claim of prosecutorial immunity came up pretty thin.

The Wearry case stems from the brutal murder of 16-year-old pizza delivery boy Eric Walber whose body was found on a gravel road not long after he delivered pizza to a remote area in Livingston Parish in 1998.

The lawsuit was filed against Perrilloux and Marion Kearney Foster, former Livingston Parish Chief of Detectives who, together, built their case against Wearry on the basis of the testimony of then 10-year-old Jeffrey Ashton who has since recanted his testimony, claiming he was threatened by Perrilloux and Foster and that Perrilloux coached him on his trial testimony..

He now says he was nowhere near the crime scene and that he never saw Wearry,” said Ashton, now 30. “I seen none of that. On the night that everything happened, I was not in Springfield, period. We was at the Strawberry Festival (in Ponchatoula).”

Ashton says Perrilloux and Foster threatened to take him to juvenile hall if he didn’t say what they wanted him to say in his testimony and that “you’re going to be there for life.”

The case languished for two years before a jailhouse snitch told authorities he participated in the murder and named Wearry and four others. The problem with Sam Scott’s story, however, was that he got several details about the crime wrong.

He said the murder occurred on Blahut Road but police reports show that it actually happened several miles from there, on Crisp Road.

The jury wasn’t told, for example, that Scott gave five statements over two days, getting both the color and make of the car wrong. In his initial statement, he said that Walber was shot but he was not. He was kidnapped in his own vehicle and then beaten before being run over several times.

Moreover, Wearry’s then-girlfriend, Renarda Dominick, said she and Wearry were at a Baton Rouge wedding reception until well beyond the time of the murder but prosecutors, never eager to admit wrongdoing, claim he could have participated in the murder after returning from the reception.

Like Ashton, Dominick said authorities went so far as to arrest her for traffic tickets she had already paid in an effort to get her to change her story.

Undaunted by the double-team scolding from Judge Dick and the U.S. Supreme Court for his office’s sloppy work, Perrilloux immediately began planning to re-try Wearry. But Wearry’s lawsuit forced an abrupt change of plans. With the lawsuit hanging over him like the sword of Damocles, Perrilloux quickly agreed to a plea deal with Wearry in December 2018, just a month before his scheduled retrial for first-degree murder. Wearry entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge of manslaughter and agreed to a 25-year sentence with credit given for more than 20 years already served.

Whether or not Wearry was involved, this was the best deal for him. Even if he was innocent, it was his only chance of not having to endure another grueling trial at the hands of a prosecutor who had already shown his propensity to win at any cost, even if it meant bending the rules to the breaking point. And another conviction would mean Wearry would never get out of prison.

And again, whether or not Wearry was involved, the actions by Perrilloux and Johnson are inexcusable. These people are elected to protect us, not to resort to unethical behavior to obtain a dubious conviction in order to bolster their resumes at election time.

With most public officials, we ask only for honesty and integrity. With prosecutors and judges, the bar must be set higher because they deal with human lives and the consequences can be catastrophic. With them, we must also demand absolute adherence to the highest standards of justice. No one is perfect, but perfection must be the objective.

Every time.

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Last May, The New Orleans Advocate published a STORY that put the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees in Louisiana at 2,800.

Today, just six months later, that number has trebled to 9,000.

That dramatic increase could be tied to the sudden disappearance of thousands of detainees in Brownsville, Texas, who were rumored to have been quietly transferred to Louisiana which now ranks second only to Texas in the number of ICE detainees.

A big part of the reason for the surge is pure economics.

The Louisiana Department of Corrections pays local sheriffs and private prisons $24.39 to house its prisoners while ICE’s rate is more than double that, at $65 a day.

And the profits don’t stop with the daily rates paid by ICE. Exorbitant rates charged by private telephone companies, private- or sheriff department-run commissaries that gouge prisoners for snacks and soft drinks, and private companies that provide ankle monitors are cashing in on both DOC prisoners and ICE detainees.

In short, local facilities, whether operated by private companies like LASALLE CORRECTIONS, headquartered in Ruston (even its EMPLOYEES give it overall poor reviews), GEO, or local sheriffs—and the aforementioned affiliated suppliers—have discovered a cash cow.

One privately-run local prison no longer even takes DOC prisoners, choosing instead to go for the bigger payout.

And of course, the private companies that run prisons, operate telephone services, sell concessions and provide the ankle monitors haven’t forgotten to grease the skids via generous campaign contributions to the elected officials who continue to approve the arrangements and everyone comes away happy.

Almost everyone, that is.

Forgotten in the ringing of the cash registers for those entities has been the general welfare of the detainees.

With 1,600 detainees in Jena, 1,000 each in Richwood, Basile, and Jonesboro, 1,400 in Winnfield, 1,100 in Pine Prairie, 835 in Ferriday, 755 in Jena, and 250 in Plain Dealing, overcrowding is a real issue. And little has been done to address that problem.

At Richwood, for example, 98 detainees are housed in a single room and there are only four toilets with no privacy. Beds are stacked three high along the walls of the room with bunk beds placed down the middle of the room. Detainees are awakened at 4 a.m. for breakfast and are given only 40 minutes per day outside. One observer said the men “get so hopeless and desperate, they just start screaming.”

Hardened criminals at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola receive better treatment.

Recently, the warden at Richwood was replaced after a detainee committed SUICIDE.

Other atrocities attributed to LaSalle were cited in an ONLINE STORY by Vice.com. These included moldy food, poor training of guards, physical abuse of migrants, and lack of medical care.

A demonstration is planned tomorrow (Saturday) at Richwood for whatever good it might do. If a detainee is identified by the media, he is at risk for reprisals, according to the observer who spoke on condition of confidentiality for that very reason.

Nell Hahn, a retired Lafayette attorney with the Louisiana Advocates for Immigrant and Detention (LA-AID), spoke to a group of detainee advocates at the Ruston Presbyterian Church last Saturday.

She said billions of dollars are being wasted on imprisoning those “whose only offense is that they have no legal documentation. They have committed no crimes,” she said.

The detainees are housed in such remote places as Jonesboro, Jena, Ferriday, Winnfield, Pine Prairie, and Oberlin in part because keeping them in such remote places makes it difficult for them to obtain legal representation from attorneys like Lara Nochomovitz of Cleveland, Ohio, who, nevertheless represents clients at Richwood, Plain Dealing and Jonesboro.

The Southern Poverty Law Center purchased a house in Jena in order to serve as a place for attorneys to stay while working on cases—and for immigrants’ families to stay free of charge.

Still, immigration judges who hear Louisiana cases have unusually high rates of denials of petitions for asylum from detainees.

It’s one thing to protect our borders and no one would argue that. But to keep detainees, including children, in inhuman conditions with inadequate toiletries, bedding, food and exercise, caged like rats, is not what this country is supposed to be about.

And lest the argument crops up that the illegal immigrants are taking jobs from Americans, let’s be clear: They have not taken a single job. Those jobs were “taken” by the employers who run the roofing companies, construction companies and the chicken processing plants, and who give the jobs to the illegals.

As long as they give the low-paying jobs to illegals, the problem will persist.

Like the futile war on drugs, as long as there is a demand, there will be a supply.

 

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