Motion: Alabama prisons not safe for convicted ex-officer
Feb 12, 2020
Montgomery, Ala. (AP) — An attorney for a white former police officer convicted of killing an unarmed black man has filed a motion asking that his client not serve his sentence in an Alabama prison because of “unconstitutional conditions” behind bars.
The motion was filed by Dwight Richardson III, the attorney for former Montgomery police officer Aaron Cody Smith, news outlets reported.
Smith was sentenced last month to 14 years in prison for the 2016 shooting death of Gregory Gunn.
The motion said Smith’s status as a former officer would subject him to heighten safety concerns in Alabama prisons, which Richardson states have been found to violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
The Department of Justice condemned the state’s prisons in a scathing report released last April.
Richardson also requested in the motion that the judge amend Smith’s time behind bars to a three-year split sentence at the Dale County Jail. Smith has been held there since being convicted of manslaughter, WSFA-TV reported. The split sentence would mean Smith serves three years in the jail and the rest of the time on probation.
Richardson has filed a notice of appeal and a motion for an appeal bond, which would make him eligible for a bond while his appeal was being considered.
Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey opposed an appeal bond during the sentencing hearing and his office filed a written objection.
Prosecutor Ben McGough wrote in the objection that an appeal bond, “would demonstrate that there is one set of rules for some convicts and another set for convicted police officers,” the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
Attorneys who represented Smith from when he was charged until he was convicted filed motions to withdraw from his case after he was sentenced, WSFA reported.
Mississippi inmate death toll rises amid emergency extension
Feb 10, 2020
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Another Mississippi inmate died Monday, the same day the governor extended an emergency order allowing the state to quickly spend money to try to resolve problems in a prison system beset by violence and poor living conditions.
The two developments were announced separately, and there was no indication that Gov. Tate Reeves’ extension of the emergency order was in response to the latest death.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating Mississippi prisons after a string of inmate deaths. The death Monday brings the total to at least 16 since late December.
Many jobs for Mississippi prison guards are unfilled. Health inspections have found recurring problems, including clogged toilets and moldy showers.
Most of the inmate deaths have occurred at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and many of them during violent clashes.
Sunflower County Coroner Heather Burton said an autopsy will be done on James Allen Brown, 54, who died Monday. He was serving life for murder, plus 25 years for residential burglary, in Scott County. He was sentenced June 11, 1993.
Burton said no foul play is suspected in Brown’s death, according to a news release from the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
The Justice Department announced Wednesday that its civil rights division is investigating whether Mississippi corrections officials are adequately protecting prisoners from physical harm and whether there are adequate health care and suicide prevention services.
The investigation will focus on conditions at the Parchman, the South Mississippi Correctional Institution, the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility and the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility, the Justice Department said.
The Wilkinson facility holds state prisoners, and the state pays a private company, Management & Training Corporation, to operate it.
An outburst of violence in late December and early January occurred when Phil Bryant was ending his second term as governor and fellow Republican Reeves was ending a second term as lieutenant governor. Bryant signed an emergency declaration for prisons Jan. 6, and Reeves was inaugurated as governor Jan. 14.
Reeves said in his State of the State address in late January that he has ordered the Department of Corrections to take steps to shut down Parchman’s Unit 29, where many of the problems have occurred.
About 1,400 inmates were housed in Unit 29 when violence broke out a few weeks ago. Reeves said Thursday that the number had decreased to about 900.
Mississippi is also facing a federal lawsuit over prison conditions. It was filed in mid-January on behalf of some Parchman inmates, and the plaintiffs’ expenses are being paid by Team Roc, a philanthropic group connected to entertainment mogul Jay-Z’s company, Roc Nation