The Valley family of one of the dead prison inmates we wrote about in February is suing the state, claiming the Department of Corrections knew the inmate was in danger and did nothing.
Timothy Lucero (at right) was a pot violator and car thief who was scheduled to be released by 2011 from the state prison in Tucson. The lawsuit states he was approached by Aryan Brotherhood members who wanted him to whack another inmate, Christopher Wathan. Not only did Lucero refuse, but he also told Wathan of the planned hit.
Wathan soon ended up dead, anyway. (His death, by the way, makes a total of five Arizona prison inmates that we know of who were killed last year). Roger Nelson, a deputy county attorney in Yuma County, reportedly told the DOC that he thought Lucero needed to serve the rest of sentence in another state because of Aryan Brotherhood threats.
On September 4, 2008, Lucero was stabbed 15 times while he was on the recreation field. Inmate Bryon Monts, (below), was accused of doing the stabbing.
Two questions here:
1. Just how many people have been killed in state prisons in 2008 and 2009?
2. When the heck is the state going to do something about this wave of violence?
As we keep mentioning, a single death in 2007 caused a warden to be fired and numerous guards disciplined. Yet it seems the DOC has done nothing in the wake of these five (at least) deaths last year (and probably more this year).
The wrongful death lawsuit, besides blaming guards for not heeding warnings that Lucero was on the short list for hits on prisoners, claims that a detective was upset that Lucero's family was trying to help the man before he was killed. Another alleged callous act: Guards reportedly took photos of Lucero's body and e-mailed them to people outside the prison.
The family, including Lucero's mother, Glenda Palmer of Peoria, are seeking general and punitive damages.
Maybe a big jury award will jar the corrections department into better protecting prisoners. Too bad it has to come to that, for victims and their families as well as taxpayers.