Prison Lawsuits

COALINGA, Calif. (AP) -- The family of a prison inmate shot and killed by a Pleasant Valley State Prison guard four years ago has settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $600,000. 

The family of Octavio Orozco, an inmate who was gunned down during a dining hall fight between Hispanics and blacks at the prison near Coalinga, accused the state Department of Corrections of lying and covering up the incident during an investigation. 

The complaint also accuses prison officials of violating prison policy by failing to use "nonlethal force to break up a fistfight involving no weapons and no immediate threat of death." 

Orozco, 23, was serving a nine-year sentence for dealing drugs and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. 

"It's important that people know the CDC had another bad shooting and had to pay for it," said Catherine Campbell, the family's lawyer. 

Margot Bach, a CDC spokeswoman, said the Orozco case "was settled in the interest of both parties." 


 Justice Now Wins Ground Breaking Quarter-Million
 Dollar Settlement For Prisoner’’s Family

June 12, 2002 Sacramento, Calif. 

 Justice Now, an Oakland-based non-profit, settled a lawsuit against the California Department of 
 Corrections (CDC) for the wrongful death of Rosemary Willeby. Ms. Willeby, a Los Angeles native, died on October 22, 1999, as a result of appalling medical neglect and mistreatment. This lawsuit was one of the first cases nationally to challenge the standard of Hepatitis C (HCV) care in prisons. It is also one of the first cases to challenge the CDC’’s common practice of gross deception when communicating with prisoners’’ families. 

 With the current imprisonment boom across the U.S., HCV has reached epidemic levels in prisons 
 nationwide. Though the CDC itself estimates 40% of prisoners are HCV+, they have very little in place to address this crisis. Rosemary Willeby was one of five prisoners who died at the Central California Women’’s Facility (CCWF) from September-October 1999; three of those deaths were due to HCV and liver failure. ““What happened to Ms. Willeby is all together too common,”” said Cynthia Chandler, co-director of Justice Now. ““The same factors that make someone vulnerable to imprisonment and policing poverty, lack of resources, and being of color are the same factors that are increasingly being linked to one’’s vulnerability to life-threatening disease. 

 This settlement is essentially an admission of the Department of Corrections’’ inability to address this 
 epidemic. More broadly, this case speaks to prisons’’ inability to respond to medical crises and the human cost of mass imprisonment.”” 

 Ms. Willeby was sentenced to three years in prison at CCWF on a drug possession charge. Upon her arrival, she informed medical staff that she had HCV and active liver disease. Yet she was swept up in an aggressive prison-wide tuberculosis protocol. 

Despite having no TB symptoms, Ms. Willeby was prescribed a prophylactic course of anti-TB medications that are commonly known to be liver-toxic and contraindicated for patients with liver disease. Ms. Willeby died shortly thereafter. 

Despite repeated requests, she was denied access to a liver disease expert until 10 days before she died. ““Even as her stomach swelled and she looked nine months pregnant, no one ever treated her for the condition she did have (HCV),”” said Cassandra Shaylor, co-director for Justice Now. ““Her continued treatment with medications that are labeled liver toxic constituted a clear violation of her Eighth Amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.”” 

As Ms. Willeby’’s health declined, prison officials continually deceived her family. At one point, a correctional officer told Ms. Willeby’’s sister-in-law that Ms. Willeby was dead, when in fact she was not. Prison staff also told Ms. Willeby’’s mother that she was in ““stable”” condition when she was fighting for her life. ““Because they told us Rosie was alright and denied us access to her, we weren’’t able to be with her when she died,”” said Catherine Cox, Rosemary Willeby’’s mother. ““She died alone and the whole time we were told she was okay. I cannot begin to tell you how horrifying it is to think that my daughter died that way.”” This settlement occurs at a time when new prison policies are restricting family access to prisoners even further. 

 ““This case takes the CDC to task for its abuse of prisoners and their families,”” said Cassandra Shaylor, co-director of Justice Now. ““It is further proof that we need to rethink our reliance on prisons as a catch all ‘‘solution’’ to social problems like drug addiction, and begin developing alternatives that provide families and communities with real solutions to public health crises””. 

Judge OKs $4.5 million settlement in Pratt suit

April 29, 2000 
Byline: The Associated Press 

A federal judge Friday approved the $4.5 million settlement of a civil-rights lawsuit by former Black Panther Geronimo Pratt, who spent 25 years in prison before his murder conviction was overturned. "Both the city of Los Angeles and the federal government stepped up to the plate and reached a fair settlement," said attorney Johnnie L. Cochran, who represented Pratt during nearly 30 years of litigation. Pratt, 53, was convicted in 1972 of robbing and shooting to death

Psychiatric Patient Accused Of Killing Hospital Roommate

Chronicle Staff Report Saturday, December 11, 1999 

MENLO PARK -- A psychiatric patient suspected of killing his roommate at the Veterans Administration hospital in Menlo Park was booked on suspicion of murder into the San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City yesterday. 

Vincent Jesse Aflague, 55, is accused of choking 78-year-old Harry Hopkins to death about 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Hospital police were called to the psychiatric ward 15 minutes later and detained Aflague until Menlo Park police arrived. Aflague was later transferred from Redwood City to the Santa Clara County Jail's psychiatric ward in San Jose. 

The San Mateo County jail does not have a floor for psychiatric patients, said Sergeant Terri Molakides, a Menlo Park police spokeswoman. Investigators believe the men, who shared a two-bedroom at the Menlo Park facility, had a disagreement over holiday music. The preliminary cause of death is strangulation, according to the San Mateo County coroner's office. The San Mateo County district attorney's office is expected to file charges following a police investigation.

California Prisons: Record Settlement, Jury
Award, in Deaths of Inmates at Corcoran and
San Quentin 


November-December 1998 

California's Department of Corrections agreed on November 10 to settle a civil rights lawsuit by paying $825,000 to the parents of Preston Tate, 25, a Corcoran State Prison inmate who was killed by prison guards. 

The settlement was the largest by the California Department of Corrections for a shooting death (Marx Arax and Mark Gladstone, "Record Settlement Reached in Corcoran Suit," Los Angeles Times, November 11, 1998, p. A11). The agreement does not include an admission of liability by individual corrections officials or prison guards. "We agreed to dismiss the complaint against all the named defendants, from the director of corrections to the shooter in the Tate case," said Catherine Campbell, plaintiffs' attorney. 

She added, "The settlement has no implications for the criminal case." In the spring of 1994, Corcoran Prison officials directed Tate, a member of a South Central Los Angeles gang, and his cellmate into an exercise yard at the prison's Security Housing Unit with two members of a rival gang with the expectation that they would fight. Tate and his cellmate defended themselves when the two members of the rival gang charged toward them. 

A prison guard allegedly shot Tate while attempting to shoot one of his attackers to stop the fight. Tate's shooting sparked an FBI investigation into Corcoran State Prison, which has led to the criminal indictments of eight prison guards for setting up fights between rival gang members at Corcoran for "amusement and blood sport" and using the fights as pretexts to shoot inmates. 

In a report released on November 25, an independent three-member panel which reviewed 31 fatal or serious shootings at Corcoran State Prison between 1989 and 1995 concluded that 24 involved the unjustified use of deadly force. The panel, which was appointed by the California Legislature, consisted of two former police chiefs and a former FBI agent. It found that prison guards did not understand in which situations the use of deadly force was authorized, and that the prison's policy on the use of deadly force was poorly written. 

The panel also criticized the procedure that no one outside the prison scrutinizes questionable shootings, and that "no one is required to render a decision concerning the legality of a shooting." 

(Associated Press, "Panel Assails Prison for Excessive Force," 
New York Times, November 27, 1998, p. A25; 
"Prison, investigations denounced by panel," 
Virginian-Pilot, November 27, 1998, p. A6; 
Editorial, "Prisons Need Full Reform," Los Angeles Times, December 2, 1998, p. A14.) 


On November 30, a California jury ordered the state to pay more than $2.3 million in damages, mostly punitive, to the estate of Mark Adams, an inmate at San Quentin State Prison who was killed by a prison guard's bullet while Adams was fighting another prisoner. 

The jury found that Adams' death was caused by a negligent state policy on the use of lethal force by prison guards. Lawyers for Adams' estate said that California was the only state in which prison guards were allowed to use guns with live ammunition to break up fights between prisoners. Adams, who was 30 at the time of his death, had entered an exercise yard and immediately attacked Paul Green, another prisoner. 

Lawyers for Adams' estate claimed that Adams had feared that an attack by Green was imminent. Timothy S. Reynolds, a prison guard, who thought Green was in danger, shouted at Adams, and then fired two warning shots. When Adams did not respond, the guard fired at Adams' leg from 25 yards away, but missed and hit Adams in the back of his head. 

("Jury's Verdict Shocks State Prison System," Los Angeles Times, December 1, 1998, p. A3.) 
California Department of Corrections - 107 South Broadway, Room 3007, Los Angeles, CA 90012, Tel: (213) 897-1001, (213) 897-1020. 
Attorney for Adams' Estate - John Scott, Esq. - 433 Turk St., San Francisco, CA 94102-3356, Tel: (415) 292-1660, Fax: (415) 776-4237. 
Catherine Campbell, Esq. - P.O. Box 4470, Fresno, CA 93728, Tel: (209) 498-8140, Fax: (209) 221-0268, E-mail: .• 

Carmona files lawsuit notice

COURTS: The civil-rights claim is over robbery charges that were dropped. 

October 14, 2000 

The Orange County Register 
Arthur Carmona, 18, who was freed from prison in August after his robbery conviction was dropped, filed a notice of claim Friday against Orange County, his former lawyer and police in Costa Mesa and Irvine. "It will be a federal civil-rights lawsuit as soon as the 45 days have passed and the claims are rejected," said Santa Ana lawyer Gregory A. Patton, who is representing Carmona and his mother, Veronica. He said that agreements Carmona made absolving the police of 

Los Angeles; 
$275,000 Offered in Stun-Belt Case; Lawsuit: Inmate accepts settlement. 
Officials agree to restrict device's use. 
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; Aug 10, 2001; NICHOLAS RICCARDI; 

Buy Full Text 

[Comparet-Cassini] warned [Ronald Hawkins] that the stun belt might be used if he continued to defy her. Hawkins asked her: "You are going to electrocute me for talking?" 

[Stephen Yagman] said Hawkins has also settled a separate lawsuit against the county over an incident in which the inmate left his cell for medical treatment and returned to find his legal papers gone. ... 

Published on October 29, 1999, 
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA) 


CHOWCHILLA - Side by side, the two largest women's prisons in the world rise out of the almond fields and light up the night sky for miles, an eerie shrine to crime and punishment whose darker impulses are now under scrutiny again. 

For years, inmates at the Central California Women's Facility have complained that medical care was so shoddy and inhumane that curable diseases sometimes became death sentences. After a class action prisoner lawsuit was filed in 1995, state corrections. . . 

Published on March 24, 2000, 
Press-Enterprise, The (Riverside, CA) 

Parents of dead boy get $250,000: 

The 4-year-old, whose mother and father had been in prison, was beaten and died in foster care.The parents of a 4-year-old boy who died in an unlicensed foster-care home last year will receive $250,000 over the next decade to settle a wrongful-death claim. 

When the boy died, mother Laura Utley was in state prison. His father, Thomas "Cowboy" Setzer, had just been released from state prison. Each parent will receive $890 a month for the next 10 years from Riverside County. 

The county Board of Supervisors recently approved the settlement with the two Hemet. . . 

Published on May 3, 1999, 
The Orange County Register 

Former inmate gets $850,000 for untreated injury

The California Department of Corrections has agreed to pay $850,000 to settle a lawsuit by a former New Folsom State Prison inmate who said his broken neck went untreated while serving a sentence for methamphetamine possession. 

The state admitted no wrongdoing in paying Steven Dodson, who is now partially paralyzed. 

"It could have been and should have been avoided," said attorney Cindy L. Robbins, who represented Dodson. "It was a very, very sad case." 

Published on August 31, 2000, 
The Sacramento Bee 

State settles claim by transsexual former inmate

The final chapter of a transsexual's odyssey through the California prison system has finally been written, with the state paying $80,000 to settle a claim that her need for hormone therapy was ignored. 

For Torey Tuesday South, the journey of physical and mental abuse began in 1994 when she entered San Quentin Prison and, she said, was brutally raped by a correctional officer and denied sex-change drugs that she had been taking for many years. 

"I still live with (the rape) every. . . 

Published on September 13, 2001, 

Modesto Bee, The (CA) 


A former Juvenile Hall guard has pleaded guilty to a single count of felony child endangerment in connection with a case in which an inmate gave birth alone in her cell. 

Alex Padilla avoided a potentially lengthy and high profile trial when he agreed last week to a plea bargain. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 15 in San Joaquin County Superior Court.The district attorney's office dropped a second child endangerment charge, plus two misdemeanor counts of cruel punishment. . . 

Published on December 17, 1999, 
San Jose Mercury News (CA) 


Four Salinas Valley State Prison inmates want a federal judge to examine their claim that inmates and guards alike are endangered by overcrowding at the institution, which they say violates the Constitution's ban against cruel and unusual punishment. 

The men have filed a lawsuit in San Jose federal court alleging widespread civil rights violations during a prisonwide lock-down last summer after a correctional officer was stabbed. 

The suit seeks $10,000 for each constitutional. . . 

Jury Awards $2.3M for Inmate Death

Micah Timothy Holmquist
Tue, 1 Dec 1998 02:11:55 -0500 (EST) 

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- In a blow against state prison policy on  gun use, a federal court jury awarded more than $2.3 million in damages Monday -- most of it against California's former prison system director -- for the fatal shooting of an inmatee by a San Quentin guard. 

The 10-member jury found unanimously that convicted murderer  Mark Adams, killed while fighting with another prisoner in March 1994, was the victim not only of a bullet gone astray but also of an unconstitutional state policy on lethal force in prison. Lawyers for Adams' estate said California was the only state  that allowed guards to use guns with live ammunition to break up fights between prisoners. 

State lawyers said gunfire was allowed if a guard believed an inmate was in danger of death or serious injury. Jurors awarded $191,000 against the guard, Timothy S. Reynolds;  $450,500 against the San Quentin warden, Arthur Calderon; and $1.66 million against James Gomez, then the director of the state Department of Corrections. Most of the award against Calderon and Gomez was for punitive damages. 

``They were the ones who knew the policies and didn't do  anything about it,'' said jury foreman Robert Resner, adding that those policies included arming guards with guns and not using less lethal methods of force, including the batons held by nearby guards who failed to enter the yard. ``I think we've sent the department a message with this verdict  that they're not to break up fistfights with guns,'' said Leroy Lounibos, a lawyer for Adams' estate. Deputy Attorney General Susan King, the state's lawyer, declined  to comment. 

The Corrections Department said later it was reviewing its options, which would include asking the judge to overturn the damages and appealing the verdict. ``We are shocked by the verdict,'' said department spokeswoman  Margot Bach. ``We are troubled by the punitive damages assessed against two outstanding correctional administrators.'' 

-=-=- AP NEWSThe Associated Press News ServiceCopyright 1998 by The Associated PressAll Rights Reserved 


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