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.
Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...
This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.
Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.
Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.
I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.
In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement who I've been supporting, Jessie Burlew.
I will miss my work and the people who have supported me - but I have been most especially grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.
I have linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281. firstname.lastname@example.org
until all are free -
MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)
Arizona Prison Watch VIOLENCE and SAFETY blog posts
Arizona Prison Watch HEALTH CARE posts
- Corizons Deliberate Indifference: KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
- Corizon's Deliberate Indifference: Prisoners and Families Fight Back
- The ADA and Disabled Prisoners: RESOURCES
- "DEATH SENTENCE": KPNX's Halloran and whistleblower expose depth of negligence at Corizon/AZ DOC.
- PARSONS v RYAN: AZ DOC health care class action settled!