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
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Editor: Peggy Plews
This site is 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. If you're unfamiliar with prison abolition, check out Critical Resistance. I'm a freelance writer and human rights activist, and have no legal training, FYI.