Suit OK'd over Utah prison beating



Sunday, June 18, 2006
Muslim says guards allowed the attack
By Wendy Leonard and Geoffrey Fattah
Deseret Morning News


http://deseretnews.com/dn/view2/1,4382,640187812,00.html

      A prisoner who says guards allowed him to be
attacked by other inmates following the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has received court approval
to move forward with a lawsuit filed against the
state.
      Jacques Dupree Miranda, a 31-year-old African
American who is a practicing Muslim, was granted
approval Thursday to file the lawsuit after U.S.
District Judge Ted Stewart found Miranda's
circumstances met a three-part test applied to such
cases.
      In a 2000 case, Spackman v. Board of Education,
the Utah Supreme Court established a test of
circumstances under which a person could seek damages
against a government entity for constitutional
violations. The case involved a Box Elder County
student who was not allowed to attend school.
      The state Supreme Court ruled that in order to
sue in such cases, plaintiffs would have to prove they
had suffered a flagrant violation of their
constitutional rights, establish that existing
remedies to their damages do not exist under common
law, and show that a court's ruling prohibiting future
behavior would be inadequate to protect their rights.
      Stewart found that Miranda's case met those
requirements, and the judge ruled he could continue
with his civil complaint.
      Miranda had been convicted of theft and was
being held in the Utah State Prison when he said he
was attacked by death-row inmate Troy Michael Kell and
another inmate in maximum security on Sept. 20, 2001.
According to a Web site run by the Muslim Civil Rights
Center, Miranda claimed the attack left him with a
"permanent debilitating injury."
      According to Miranda, Kell's cell door was
opened while Miranda was in the common area. Kell
allegedly attacked Miranda, calling him derogatory
names about Miranda's religion. Miranda alleges Kell
put him in a choke hold and continued to beat him
while he was unconscious. Miranda said guards stood by
and let the attack happen.
      According to the Utah Department of Corrections,
Kell was found not guilty in an internal prison
disciplinary hearing.
      Kell, a known white supremacist, was convicted
and sentenced to die for a 1996 fatal stabbing of
fellow inmate Lonnie Blackmon, who was black.
Investigators determined Kell stabbed Blackmon 67
times while they were both inmates at the state prison
in Gunnison.
      At the time, prison spokesman Jack Ford said the
stabbing was believed to have been racially motivated.
      Miranda filed his lawsuit against the state of
Utah in December 2003. According to the lawsuit,
Miranda claimed that because of his race and religious
beliefs, he was "targeted by other inmates and by
correctional officers who were angered by the
terrorist actions and tried to incite violence against
him."
      Miranda was required to exhaust all
administrative remedies available to him, which
included filing a complaint with the prison and the
state, and receiving court approval to continue with
his lawsuit. Stewart's ruling means Miranda can now
move ahead with his case, in which he is asking the
state for at least $1 million in damages.
      His lawsuit accuses the Utah Department of
Corrections and individual officers of cruel and
unusual punishment, negligence, battery, intentional
infliction of emotional distress and violation of his
constitutional rights.
      He claims that had "officials done their job and
heeded his warning that other inmates wanted to kill
him," the situation could have been avoided.

E-mail: wleondard@desnews.com; gfattah@desnews.com 






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