Murder on Madison: The Norberg Remix

Tweaker inmate who died at the hands of jailers was also a loving son

He was released from the hospital, then arrested in Mesa four hours later, after police received reports of a delirious, hostile man wandering a neighborhood. (After leaving the hospital, Norberg had gone to his former in-laws' home, saying that he needed a blessing; they had suggested he go see a Mormon bishop; he was looking for that bishop when someone called the police.)

Norberg spoke gibberish to the police who approached him, and popped one of them in the head when he was being handcuffed. At the Mesa police station, he shouted nonsense. One officer testified that when he told Scott to shut up, Scott dropped to one knee, bowed and begged the cop's forgiveness.

Basically, Norberg was wacked out of his head.
But--and I want to nail this point, because Joe Arpaio has misrepresented it--Norberg was not high on crystal meth at the time of his death. He was transferred from Mesa to the county's Madison Street Jail about midnight, and was killed 15 hours later. Medical examiners found no meth in his blood system--only in his urine.

Arpaio and his minions portrayed Norberg as a meth-crazed maniac with superhuman strength, hence the need for stun guns, the restraint chair, and 14 jailers beating the shit out of him.

Well, Arpaio either lied, or he's an ignorant punk.
Meth in your urine and not your blood means the tweak's already been processed by your body. The primary effects are gone (toxicologists have confirmed this in Norberg's case). Scott wasn't flying on meth in Madison Street, he was crashing. This explains his confused, lethargic behavior, and suggests his strength was anything but superhuman.

Throughout the day in the Horseshoe--and this is also on tape--whenever the jailers would order prisoners to line up and march, Norberg would shuffle the wrong way, or simply sit down and put his head between his knees. Guards started calling him "the Twilight Zone Man."

Right before he was killed, Scott was sitting in a cell with about 30 other prisoners waiting to make court appearances (keep in mind that for all of Arpaio's swaggering rhetoric about getting tough on criminals, he runs county jails, not penitentiaries. Most of the prisoners in his custody are being booked or awaiting trial; they are presumed innocent).

According to Manning's settlement brief, this is what happened next:
"Scott was sitting on the floor just inside the doorway. His eyes were closed, and his head was bowed down. He appeared to be asleep. Jailer Kimbrough and then Musbach yelled Scott's name, even though they both knew who he was.

"Scott did not respond to his name. Gurney reached down and grabbed his shoulder. Scott leaned forward slightly so that he could look behind him and see what was happening; then Gurney unleashed his attack upon Scott. Each of [almost 30] eyewitnesses, including a court clerk, has either testified or told MCSO detectives that Gurney attacked Scott, and that Scott did nothing to provoke the attack.

"Gurney claims Scott jumped up and turned around 'menacingly' when Gurney touched Scott's shoulder. The jail surveillance footage, however, exposes Gurney's lie. Although Scott is not visible because he is sitting just inside the door, the footage shows Gurney clearly bend over at the waist and rush in on Scott toward the floor."

You already know what happened after that.
But you may not know that three months before Norberg was killed, the U.S. Department of Justice sent the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors a formal letter alerting the county that the abusive conditions and excessive force used inside the jails run by Joe Arpaio violated the Constitution.

You may not know that around the same time, Madison Street jailers gave similar treatment to a paraplegic named Richard Post, who had overflowed a toilet. They strapped Post into a restraint chair (which jailers used 600 times in a six-month period, including Norberg's death) and broke Post's neck, costing him the use of his right arm. Post's lawsuit is still pending. (See story on page 22.)

Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley fired up a criminal obstruction of justice investigation into the sheriff's office's handling of evidence in the Norberg case, but Romley passed the baton to the FBI because he said Arpaio was having him spied upon. The FBI is also conducting a criminal investigation into Norberg's killing.

To Joe Arpaio and the jailers who killed Norberg, I offer a lyric from Rage Against the Machine's track "Wake Up":

"How long? Not long. Because what you reap is what you sow."

Contact David Holthouse at his online address:

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Phoenix Concert Tickets