Sheriff's Cover-up?

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"They're saying he died of a heart attack or--you're going to love this--excited delirium, that he died of his own adrenaline, I guess," says Manning. "We're saying that he was suffocated, which is what they found originally, that he died of positional asphyxiation."

Further examination of the larynx itself could settle the matter. But the larynx has been discarded. County records show that Dudley took the organ from Griest and stored it. Since the sheriff's office and medical examiner had ruled the death an accident rather than a homicide, it was thrown away after a year.

"Although the County maintained other tissue and fluid samples from Scott, his fractured larynx was destroyed by defendants sometime after the County knew that Scott had been forcefully asphyxiated, knew that a Homicide investigation was under way, and knew that claims were filed against the County arising from Scott's death," Manning writes.

Manning also insists that notes taken by Spidell, the guard who allegedly had cursed at fellow officer Kimberley Walsh, are also important evidence in the case. "They are the only written narrative made by any defendant at the precise time of Scott's killing," Manning writes. "The critical nature of the notes has recently been made more acute by Spidell's refusal to testify under oath."

Like the larynx, however, Spidell's notes have disappeared.
Spidell made several references to his written notes when he was interviewed by sheriff's investigators the night of June 1, 1996.

That afternoon, Spidell had responded to his co-workers' calls for help by joining the melee happening in a hallway of Madison Street Jail.

"I ran out there around the corner, and I saw what appeared to be nothing but brown shirts [detention officers] all the way around this guy," Spidell said.

Norberg had been booked the day before in Mesa after he alarmed residents with erratic behavior. Norberg had been using methamphetamines and was dehydrated; he wrestled with a Mesa police officer who attempted to arrest him. Booked on aggravated assault for punching the officer, Norberg spent several uneventful hours in Mesa's jail before he was moved to Madison Street Jail downtown. There, he was described by inmates as being "out of it," and he refused to respond when guards attempted to take him to an initial court appearance for the setting of his bail. Instead, a judge and clerk were brought to his cell, but Norberg refused to follow a guard's orders to stand up. A fight then broke out between that guard, David Gurney, and Norberg. The sheriff's office blamed Norberg for starting that altercation, but inmates claimed Gurney was at fault. In a sworn statement, the court clerk agreed that Gurney tackled Norberg.

A videotape of the incident showed that nine detention officers poured into Norberg's cell, dragged him to the hallway, pinned him to the floor and handcuffed him. That's when Spidell showed up. "He appeared to me to be secured," Spidell told investigators that day.

The officers, however, decided to put Norberg into a restraint chair. Spidell joined them, bringing leg irons to secure Norberg's feet.

Two female officers, meanwhile, held a towel over Norberg's face to keep him from spitting. Spidell told sheriff's investigators that the towel nearly covered Norberg's entire face.

But when Spidell was asked why he and other officers pushed Norberg's head down into his chest, Spidell responded: "Their head has to go down, because it doesn't allow them to focus in on anybody, doesn't allow them to set anybody else off just because he's looking at them in a certain way." Spidell didn't explain how Norberg could have "set someone off" with his face when it was covered with a towel.

The sheriff's investigators had already interviewed one of the female officers, Kimberley Walsh, who told them that while she was holding the towel, she noticed that Norberg had turned purple and didn't seem to be breathing. She warned the others, and said Spidell barked back: "Who gives a fuck?"

Walsh claimed that the officers held Norberg's head down for several more minutes until it was obvious the inmate was limp. Spidell confirmed that Walsh had told them Norberg seemed to be in trouble, according to a transcript of the interview in the sheriff's 2,000-page report of Norberg's death:

Detective Todd Bates: "Okay, what did you say to Officer Walsh when she said to you that he's not breathing?"

Spidell: "I said we're going to finish securing this arm."
Bates: "Okay, did you use any other statements?"
Spidell: "No."

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Tony Ortega
Contact: Tony Ortega