We need to fix this injustice before anyone else changes office this year. We need to get Courtney home to her family.
How promptly and responsibly these wrongful convictions in Arizona are handled should have direct bearing on who ends up getting elected and who doesn't.
Courtney's unjust incarceration and vulnerability to assault strike me as a law enforcement emergency, and Courtney and her daughter have been separated far too long already...I think the Maricopa County Attorney's office could spring her within a week if they really wanted (that's the link to their "comment" page).
He's supposed to be a powerful man, right?
Hang in there, Courtney and Camille.
Above: "Letter From the Son of Dorothy Gaines": a child's plea to a judge to not send his mother off to prison. It's tragic how many judges do so anyway - despite begging children, dying loved ones, even dying prisoners...they even ignore these kids when evidence of their parents' innocence arises. Ego and politics trumps what really matters in this state, once again.
Courtney Bisbee Is Assaulted in Prison...
Stephen Lemons / Phoenix New Times
March 18, 2010
A trip to Goodyear's Perryville Prison can be a deceiving experience. On any given Sunday, family members visit moms, sisters, and daughters warehoused at Perryville. The female convicts in their orange jumpsuits seem happy for the respite from serving their time, short-lived though it may be.
Even Courtney Bisbee, who is doing 11 years on bogus child-molestation charges detailed in my October 2008 New Times cover story "Nursing Injustice," seems pleasant and untroubled at times, even though she's still fighting to clear her name.
In 2006, Bisbee, then a school nurse, was convicted in a bench trial of touching 13-year-old Jon Valles inappropriately. The case of he said/she said was heard by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Warren Granville.
Granville believed Bisbee's accuser. But Jon's brother Nik Valles — a key prosecution witness — has since recanted his testimony, saying his mother put Jon up to lie on the stand.
Still, despite a petition for post-conviction relief, which documented many of the problems of the case and introduced new evidence arguing for Bisbee's innocence, Granville refused to reverse his finding of guilt. Bisbee's challenging his ruling before the Court of Appeals, asking for a new hearing, possibly a new trial.
The appeals court probably will rule on Bisbee's challenge later this year. Meanwhile, Bisbee waits and fights in court to have a relationship with her daughter, Taylor Lee, who lives with her father and has had no contact with her imprisoned mother or her maternal grandparents for more than four years now.
If Taylor Lee ever sees her mother again, Bisbee will look different. Not only will she be older, there may well be a 2½-inch scar running from her scalp to her left eyebrow.
The gash, which is on the mend, went all the way to her skull, severing muscle and causing nerve damage. Bisbee suffered it March 1, as she was putting away equipment from an aerobics class she teaches at Perryville.
Another inmate, whom Bisbee had not dealt with before, called her from behind. Bisbee turned and was immediately punched in the face. Bisbee's assailant then grabbed her and flung her off her feet and into a metal door, opening up a gaping head wound. Bisbee was treated with 11 stitches at a hospital.
Two weeks later, when I visited her at Perryville, Bisbee's eye was still bruised and swollen, and the head wound was shockingly thick.
"They were big stitches, not the little kind," Bisbee said, pulling back a lock of hair to show me. Bisbee explained that the doctors wanted room for the wound to drain.
Though she was given painkillers at the hospital and was prescribed more, she says she's received none in prison. The left side of her scalp is still numb from the injury, she says, and she has painful headaches. Her left eye is also sensitive to light, and her eyesight has not fully recovered.
But she's more concerned about receiving the prescribed ointment Mederma, which is supposed to lessen scarring. This, too, prison authorities have withheld, though Bisbee's parents are willing to pay for it.
She playfully chastises her mother, Camille Tilley, for referring to the wound as a "Frankenstein scar" in an e-mail to Bisbee's hundreds of supporters. The wound might fit the description if Bisbee's bangs didn't hide it.
Fortunately, the attack on Bisbee was carried out in plain view of a Perryville guard, who immediately arrested the other inmate.
Why was she attacked? The scuttlebutt is that her assailant wanted to be written up and transferred to a high-security yard, where the assailant's girlfriend was assigned.
Bisbee says she gets along with most of the other inmates but says there is a small group whose members might think badly of her because she maintains her innocence.
"I don't fit in," she told me. "It's like I have one foot in this world, and one foot in the outside world."
Bisbee contends she's "feisty" and can tough out the situation. She doesn't have much choice.