Lest anyone think that jail is a "safe" place for people - especially in Maricopa County.
Jurors shown videotape of inmate's fatal beating
by Jim Walsh - Nov. 3, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Relatives of an inmate who was brutally murdered last year in the Fourth Avenue Jail shuddered as a prosecutor played a surveillance videotape of the killing for the jury.
Investigators have said that Robert Van Winkle, 27, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, somehow lured Robert Cotton, 28, into his cell and then savagely strangled and beat him to death.
"It was a matter of having to go through it for the first time. It was the need to know," said Kay Cotton, the victim's mother. "It just wouldn't end. It just went on for so long."
Van Winkle is charged with killing Cotton as retribution for snitching on a White-supremacist gang member. A civil suit against the county stemming from the May 1, 2008, slaying was settled for $500,000.
The tape shows a man officials say is Van Winkle sitting on top of Cotton, pounding him with his fists. The attacker also kicks and stomps Cotton, jumping up and down repeatedly on his body.
Detention Officer Ken Monahan testified that he never witnessed the beating from a control tower but saw Van Winkle drag Cotton's body out of the cell and attempt to toss it over the railing.
"It was a very traumatic experience," Monahan said.
Cotton had been in and out of prison for nearly a decade as the result of alcohol and drug addictions but was not a violent criminal. He was assigned to the maximum-security unit after he received threats.
Dr. Etoi Davenport Grant, a forensic pathologist, testified that Cotton died of "homicidal violence," a combination of strangulation and a severe beating.
MARGARET J PLEWS
PO BOX 20494
PHOENIX, AZ 85036
Established: July 18, 2009
Editor: Peggy Plews
This site is to offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex in Arizona from a prison abolitionist's perspective. Abolitionism is an anti-colonialist articulation of a vision of racial and economic justice, one in which we don't submit to or depend on the prison industrial complex to brutalize the "duly convicted" (and their loved ones) as a response to harm, as a preventative measure out of fear, or as a means of assuring social order. It's an optimistic vision which presumes that our society collectively evolves, both morally and socially, such that the root causes of criminalization and incarceration are addressed before we produce more generations of people being allowed to hurt eachother. The current system doesn't prevent people from being victimized - it just prescribes rules for who does and doesn't get to hurt or be hurt in America. That's not a good enough foundation for a system truly based on achieving justice.
Prison abolitionism argues that we don't simply need to shut down the prisons: we need to rewrite the way the rules around perpetrating harm against people and property are made in the first place, so that humanity, not profit (or state "savings", as the case may be) comes first. From re-prioritizing our world, our ideas around what is crime and how to punish it would look much differently...Critical Resistance is a good source for more info on that.
I'm just a freelance writer and artist, by the way, but if you are the loved one of a prisoner and need help, feel free to contact me. Emailing me works best: email@example.com but 480-580-6807 is ok too.
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