No Criminal Charges in Case of Arizona Inmate Who Died after Four Hours in 107-Degree Cage
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office recently announced that it will not file criminal charges against correctional officers involved in the death of Marcia Powell, an Arizona inmate who succumbed to heat exhaustion after she was left outside in a cage, in 107-degree heat, for four hours. From the Phoenix New Times:
A 3,000 page internal investigation released by [the Arizona Department of Corrections] last year revealed accounts by inmates that Powell was never given water and that she was mocked or ignored by ADC staff when she asked for water, to go to the bathroom, or to be taken back inside.
Though corrections officers maintained that Powell had been given water, her desiccated corpse argued otherwise. She had been kept outside in the blazing Arizona sun hours past the department’s own two-hour cutoff for such en plein air detention. Also, her body was covered in excrement, as she soiled herself while in the enclosure.
But according to ADC spokesman Barrett Marson, the County Attorney’s office never reviewed the 3,000 page report released last year. Instead, the CA received a copy of ADC’s separate, criminal investigation, which Marson characterized as “even more voluminous.”
Based on that criminal investigation, the CA’s office concluded that there was “insufficient evidence” to go forward with a prosecution.
Why didn’t the CA get to see the internal investigation, which was made public and reported on by several news outlets? This has to do with something called “the Garrity rule,” based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision Garrity vs. New Jersey.
According to the Garrity rule, law enforcement officers can be compelled to answer certain questions by their employers, but those statements cannot be used against a LEO in criminal proceedings.
Meanwhile, another Arizona prisoner was apparently recently kept in a cage overnight, for 19 hours, though not under the life-threatening conditions that killed Powell. After learning of the incident from a prisoners’ advocacy group, Middle Ground Prison Reform, ADC Director Charles Ryan ordered an investigation and ultimately suspended the warden involved for a few days without pay.