Reasonable Doubt

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Schriro, according to the DOC timeline, was out of state when the crisis began. She flew back and took charge of the rescue operation even though, the timeline shows, a state Department of Public Safety SWAT team was in place for about four hours before Schriro arrived at the command center.

Schriro then directed the state response, including to continue prolonged negotiations instead of sending in tactical teams to rescue the hostages. Tactical experts, who devised a plan they thought would end the situation without injuring the hostages, are critical of that strategy because they believed there was a great likelihood that Fraley was being sexually assaulted while SWAT teams were ordered by Schriro to hold off.

Now, Napolitano, who also was closely involved in the handling of the hostage situation, according to documents released by her office, has convened several reviews of the state's response to the crisis and conditions at the prison. Her top political appointee, chief of staff Dennis Burke, is heading the review along with former state attorney general Grant Woods, a Republican, and Herb Guenther, Napolitano's director of the Department of Water Resources who was a Democratic state senator.

Many of those involved in Napolitano's panels are state employees who, in essence, work for her. In addition, the governor has asked several national corrections experts to help examine prison operations and conditions at Lewis with an eye toward potential changes that could help avoid trouble in the future. She wants a preliminary report by March 4.

Schriro came to Arizona in June 2003 from St. Louis, where she headed that city's long-troubled corrections department for less than two years before being tapped by Napolitano.

Schriro was suspended from her St. Louis post for two weeks in 2002 after five inmates escaped from the city's medium-security lockup, commonly called the workhouse. After the breakout, investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice found a laundry list of lax security measures at the workhouse, which was being used to house high-security prisoners while a new jail was being built. Besides surveillance cameras that pointed at ceilings, keys weren't inventoried, guards weren't regularly counting inmates and visitors weren't asked to empty their pockets before stepping inside an overcrowded lockup filled with the city's most dangerous inmates. At least two workhouse uprisings occurred during Schriro's tenure, and one of them led to an inmate lawsuit against Schriro and several other St. Louis corrections officials.

In his lawsuit, Jamar Welch, who suffered a concussion, sought a videotape of guards restoring order along with reports from guards that detailed their use of force during a 2002 uprising. In depositions, top corrections officials and rank-and-file guards testified under oath that reports had been written, then reviewed by supervisors. In subsequent sworn statements, they changed their stories, saying the reports were never prepared. Corrections officials also swore that the videotape had been lost.

In August, Jackson, the federal judge, ordered the city to produce the evidence. Officials swore they'd searched hard for the videotape, both before and after the judge's order. Schriro, according to other corrections officials who testified at an October 6 evidentiary hearing, was the last person to have the missing videotape.

In a deposition, Schriro said she remembered giving it to her secretary. But her secretary testified in October that she'd never seen the tape. A city investigator who looked into the riot testified that he repeatedly asked Schriro to give him the tape, but she never did, and that she never told him she'd given it to her secretary.

Jackson refused to allow Schriro to testify by telephone at the October hearing. "There's some credibility issues here," the judge said during the hearing. "I'm not entirely comfortable taking testimony by telephone when I want to have the opportunity to see the witness."

In her February 3 ruling, Jackson accepted the city's explanation that the videotape had been lost, but said she could not determine whether reports were written.

Besides fibbing about the reports, officials also didn't tell the truth about efforts to locate the videotape, wrote Jackson, who noted two corrections employees, contrary to their sworn affidavits, testified that they didn't look for the videotape until after the city received a court order compelling officials to produce the evidence.

Jackson ordered the defendants to reimburse Welch's attorney for his time and expenses in seeking the reports and videotape. Jackson also refused to consider affidavits from Schriro and five other corrections officials that were filed in support of the city's motion to dismiss the case. And without those affidavits, Jackson wrote, the city couldn't make a case for summary judgment. (In her affidavit, Schriro says, among other things, that she didn't violate Welch's constitutional rights, that she never disregarded any risk toward him and that she never acted with "deliberate indifference" toward the staff, their training and their supervision.)

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Patti Epler
Contact: Patti Epler
Bruce Rushton