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Published: Wed, Jul 11, 2001 

Incapable of getting a fair trial

Reporter Editor: 
The jury in the James Diesso case was obviously led and influenced by an unscrupulous district attorney who brought in as his only witnesses inmates from the psychiatric ward in the California Medical Facility in Vacaville 

Judge Harry Kinnicut, who in open court called James Diesso an animal on the first day of this trial, showed prejudice from day one and should not have tried this case. 

The jury missed the point that the mentally ill are innocent and when people are medicated they do not "look" mentally ill. But anyone who stabbed another inmate 17 times, swallows glass, razor blades and tries to hang himself repeatedly (and has for years), cannot be considered sane. 

The people who administrate prisons are responsible for those they hold helpless in cages. The person who would place a toddler into a cell with a pit bull dog is the true murderer in this situation. 

The state of California has no business double-celling known, violent inmates together. The result can only be maiming or death. 

Why aren't they on trial instead of blaming it all on Diesso and getting off scot-free? Where's the national media on this outrageous injustice? 

Jerry Baker, Fairfield 

Published: Thu, Jul 5, 2001 

Prisons are cruel to mentally ill

Reporter Editor: 
It's very common knowledge throughout the prison system that if the mentally ill don't follow the "rules," they can be punished. Then they are left naked in rooms without blankets or mattresses for days at a time. Restraints for a week or more are common. All this happened to James Diesso on a regular basis and is documented in his files. 

One of the reasons reporters are banned from prisons is due to the continual torture of the mentally ill, who, like Mr. Diesso, are pepper sprayed while caged in the California Medical Facility. 

Prisoners are poor people. A candy bar would be more effective in getting a mentally ill, child-like person to come inside from the yard than pepper spray. 

When Ronald Reagan eliminated the mental hospitals, he caused a crisis within the prisons. The humane thing to do is get the mentally ill out of the prisons and into hospitals. Both the James Diesso and his victim's family are entitled to millions in lawsuits for double-celling these two. 

That's why the politics caused a "sane" ruling for someone with a long documented history of mental illness. Now the prison administration escapes accountability. 

Citizens ought to get involved here. Everyone thinks they can't go to prison until it's too late. Murder by the system right under our noses shouldn't be ignored. 

Joan Galven, Fairfield 

Published: Thu, Jul 5, 2001 

Wrong decision

Reporter Editor: 
If two inmates are confined to the same cell and one turns up murdered next morning, guess who did it. 

An easy decision for a recent Solano County jury. What shouldn't have been so easy was deciding that James Diesso was sane when he killed Jeffrey Ford. No fewer than three doctors had testified to Diesso's insanity, and prison records going back many years bore out their opinions. 

Either way, Diesso will spend the rest of his life incarcerated. But to mandate him to "regular" prison instead of psychiatric confinement cannot be in the best interests of the general prison population, the prison employees, or Diesso himself. 

Bigger questions related to this case affect all of California's 160,000 state prisoners every day. What was prison staff thinking when they put a guy, who a year before had stabbed another inmate 17 times and was known for acting out crazily, in an 8-foot-by-8-foot cell with a guy who had recently fought twice with guards? Was this business as usual in today's prison management? Are they so tired of bad actors that they don't care what happens? Was there an element of revenge against Ford? How many inmates sleep with one eye open every single night because their "cellie" may be James Diesso, unmedicated and unconfined to psychiatric care? 

Deborah D. Jimenez, Santa Rosa 

Published: Fri, Jul 6, 2001 

Give treatment not punishment

Reporter Editor: 
Juries must be helped to understand mental illness. This is not difficult to do. It requires a judge who is impartial and fair, who will take the time to learn, and who will be supportive of this type of instruction. It also requires a prosecutor who will at least entertain the notion that the mentally ill need treatment, not punishment. 

Solano County Judge Harry Kinnicut does not know how to lead, nor is he following. He is dead wrong and destructive to boot. Perhaps it is time for him to hang up his robe and just get out of the way. 

If you treat a human like an animal, they will respond in kind. It is time for James Diesso (the Vacaville prison inmate who killed his cellmate) to receive treatment. 

Sandra Harris, Los Angeles 

Published: Sat, Jul 7, 2001 

Prison system avoids scrutiny

Reporter Editor: 
Elder abuse is rampant in our prison system. One needs only to visit to see the extreme elderly - some suffering from dementia and others recovering from the ravages of stroke - to understand. Often they have no one to care for them unless a fellow cellmate takes on this responsibility. 

What would be considered a criminal offense (or neglect) in the outside world, is considered business as usual behind prison walls. 

Younger inmates sometimes suffer in ways we cannot begin to imagine. One such man is currently housed in a California prison, Jimmy Diesso. He has a long history of mental illness which has been well documented. 

Yet one day his guards placed him in a cell with another violent, mentally ill inmate - knowing full well what the outcome might be. 

What would have been a criminal act in the outside world, was once again business as usual behind prison walls. 

Our corrections department needs correcting. Never again should this department be allowed to set up a murder or turn their back on neglect and walk away from issues of safety. It must be held accountable. 

Mary Charlotte White, Riverside 

Published: Sun, Jul 8, 2001 

State culpable in prisoners' violent demise

Reporter Editor: 
Was it the prison system or James Diesso who had no choice at all in the murder of fellow inmate Jeffrey Ford? 

Isn't it a fact that he, James Diesso, his family and other inmates were screaming for help prior to this horrifying incident? Who is really at fault here? 

I am a taxpayer and I would like the truth. 

It is right for anyone to have been put in that position? Of course, not. Is it time for the state of California to take responsibility for its own actions? Yes. 

This incident should have never taken place. For a Solano County judge and jury to hold a man who is "limited," to say the least, as responsible for this murder is flat insane. 

This was not my idea of a fair trial. A fair trial would have included Warden Ana Palmer on the witness stand, taking responsibility for this heinous decision (to house a mentally unstable inmate with another). Why not? She earned her salary and made irresponsible decisions resulting in the death of an inmate. 

As a taxpayer I am held responsible for every single decision I make every day of my life. I take this responsibility very seriously. 

Loved family members are entrusted in the state's hands. How dare it make a mistake like this? I demand an answer. Now two families' lives are ruined at the hands of a high-paid state employee. 

I feel the state of California and Ana Palmer used James Diesso as a scapegoat for a crime they wanted to happen. 

Who is the sick one? James Diesso with documented brain disorders or the State of California and its decision to house two violent inmates together. 

Sylvia Vasquez, Rancho Santa Margarita 

Published: Sun, Jul 8, 2001 

Prisons need some oversight

Dear Editor, 
Each prison is its own kingdom. Each is self-contained and self-governed. 

A code of silence governs the officers, and protects them from wrongdoing. No accountability is in place for the miscarriage of justice and power. 

The union that represents the officers is the most powerful in California. James Diesso's murder conviction and Jeffrey Ray Ford's death have added two trophies to the California Department of Corrections. 

Officers are not held responsible to provide for the safety and security of inmates. They are above law, order and justice. 

Law-abiding citizens who have a loved one in a California state prison are exposed to the demeaning, disrespectful attitudes and inhumane treatment of officers. They soon learn that complaints only bring retaliation on their loved one. 

Until we allow journalists and other objective voices from the community to expose the atrocities, banned in the name of "security," each prison will remain a kingdom without restraint. 

Rose Mary Caragol, Lemoore 

Published: Tue, Mar 9, 1999 

Prison treatment nearly inhuman

Reporter Editor: 

If an ordinary citizen had a mentally ill child and it was discovered that 
instead of giving him his medication, that parent tied him up at the arms, 
legs and neck for days at a time, forced him to sleep on a freezing cold 
concrete floor without a mattress, blanket or clothes, and ridiculed and beat 
him, that citizen would be charged with child abuse and sentenced to prison. 

Yet, the warden and staff at Vacaville's state prison have been committing 
these atrocities against James Diesso for five years without question, even 
after being advised by Dr. Paul Remis of his epileptic brain disorder. 

He has been bound in five-point restraints, which is against international 
law. As a citizen, a taxpayer and a human being, I am outraged at a system so 
cruel that it punishes a mentally ill young man for being sick. How many 
other prisoners in Vacaville are treated in a similar manner? What kind of a 
monster is in charge of this operation? 

Of what value has placing Jimmy Diesso in "the hole" for months at time been 
to his "correction?" The group United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect will picket Vacaville if necessary if Mr. Diesso isn't given his medication 
and released from the deadly restraints immediately. There shall be no more 
freezing floors without a large outcry either. 

It is too easy for California Medical Facility management, who has tortured 
someone to this degree, to blame anything they want on the inmate. He needs 
to be transferred out of this facility immediately. Obviously, torture is not 
a cure for mental illness and Mr. Diesso's condition worsens daily. When an 
inmate breaks up his reading glasses and swallows them in a suicide attempt, 
it ought to be a clear indication that this is a life-and-death situation. 

There are some Eighth Amendment violations at issue here. Jimmy needs to be moved to a hospital in Nevada where he can receive regular visits from his 
mother, who loves him, and medication required to control his epileptic 

Thousands of UNION members don't intend to sit by and watch these conditions happen to any inmate in Vacaville or the rest of the state for that matter. 

You will find it difficult to ignore us as we intend to decry these 
conditions most vociferously. 

Catharine Davis, Council Bluffs, Iowa 

March 6 2000 

Mother convinced her son never will get fair trial here 

Reporter Editor: As James Diesso's mother, I need to get some things out 
front here, please. First, my son was taken into the system at the age of 12 
for being mentally ill. He had and has a brain disorder called brain 
epilepsy. That is only one of his many illnesses diagnosed by real doctors. 
He has blackouts. When not on medication (proper medication), he will have 
angry outbursts and severe blackouts. I only wanted to remind you of this 
tragedy that has happened to this young boy. His only crime was because of 
his illness and his blackouts. Often he would be missing from home, not 
knowing where he was. He would take my vehicle at a young age and not even be aware of it. When Jimmy would come out of these blackouts he would call me and cry, "Momma, I am so scared. Where am I? What happened? I am so sorry. 

Please come get me, I am so scared." He was not a child that was just running 
the streets, or in gangs. He was a very ill boy. He was under doctor's care 
until after a bill of $100,000, his dad and I ran out of insurance. Please 
listen to what is really happening to James Diesso concerning his being 
charged with the murder of a Vacaville prison inmate. He has no memory of 
this act. Judge Harry Kinnicutt has publicly stated he believes my son is not 
mentally ill. Now I'm not sure how his education or training has qualified 
him to be able to diagnose mental illness, but he is first an attorney, so 
he's been to law school. Has he been to medical school or does he have a 
degree in psychology? Most certainly not. He has poisoned the minds of 
potential jurors by saying this. It is grounds for a request of change of 
venue. He has simply stated that he, based on his preconceived notions, is 
unable to be unbiased in his duties. The trial should be moved to a court 
with a judge who wouldn't be so reckless. His attorney claimed he has been 
assaulted by my son, proving he would not do his best to defend him. 
Regardless of the circumstances, he would be emotionally incapable of it. The 
judge said James Diesso is too out of it to defend himself, but not too out 
of it to stand trial in the first place. Wanting to defend himself is proof 
enough to me that he doesn't understand what is going on and the seriousness 
of the charges or the situation. I plead to all of you. Help stop this 
injustice. He needs to be in a hospital. I am trying to relocate to where I 
can work and get to my son. I love him with all my heart. 

Margie Jump, Cold Springs, Nev. 

Stand up, protest prison scurrility

Reporter Editor: 

It was recently discovered that a mentally ill man had his medication 
withheld by those in charge of his care inside Vacaville's California Medical 
Facility. This inaction is negligent, inhumane and shocking. 

Yet it does not stop there. He has also been stripped of his clothing, placed 
in deadly restraints (arms, legs, and neck-bound), and forced to sleep on a 
cold concrete floor without a mattress, blanket or clothing. 

Left alone for days on end with little human contact, his condition has 
become worse. Recently he became so distraught that he broke up his reading glasses and tried to swallow them in a suicide attempt. 

You may ask yourself why this man's abuse is not reported in the media. 

Perhaps they feel it is not newsworthy or that people don't want to hear it 
because Jimmy Diesso is an inmate. Well, we need to hear it. This is an 
outrage that needs to be brought to light. 

The recent hearings on the horrible things that have occurred, and are in 
fact still occurring, at the Corcoran State Prison are just the tip of the 

Judy S