This in from Phoenix's KPHO Channel 5 this morning, telling us that Shannon Palmer was castrated by his cellmate. I was kind of annoyed last week that the AZ Department of Corrections felt it necessary to notate that Palmer was in prison for the fourth time, since it seemed to have nothing to do with the fact he was murdered. Now I realize why they may have wanted to make him look like a more dangerous criminal than he was - he was being housed with a REAL serious criminal, which they're responsible for doing. Turning around and telling us all how many times the victim has been to prison before was just a way to make us care less about what happened to him, once the truth came out. That's pretty despicable, frankly.
What the ADC didn't tell us is that when Palmer was charged with criminal damage this last time, his mental capacity was in question enough that the judge ordered a competency exam twice under Rule 11 before allowing him to plead guilty, and again before sentencing him. The first time he was found to be not competent and had to be medicated to be deemed competent. All of that tells me he had a psychiatric disability. If fact, early on in the legal proceedings against him Palmer couldn't make it to the court hearings because he was in a "mental health setting".
Palmer's cellmate, on the other hand, was an apparent sociopath in for FIRST-degree murder and kidnapping, among other things, and had a history of violent behavior while in prison. Some of Palmer's prior court records are sealed because of his mental illness, but he apparently had no violent misconduct charges on his prison record.
I did some reading up on the ADC's policies about custody levels and housing recently because I've been investigating all these murders in the prisons of late, and was disturbed to see how easy they've made it for violent offenders to have access to people who can be easily victimized - presumably they did that to cut costs by cramming as many guys into a cell or dorm area as possible. It appears to have begun under Stewart or Schriro - the latter is the one who initially authorized putting medium -custody murderers in Kingman to begin with, not Ryan (though before the escapes happened, Ryan seemed to take pride in the ADC risk assessment instrument he helped develop that put those guys there).
Another interesting thing about this cellmate match-up is that both of the guys were just moved last month, after the escapes, to the Transitory Unit at Lewis. If there are any insiders out there who can fill me in on this unit, please do. According to the ADC daily count sheet for 9/8/10, that particular unit is very small and is ranked as a minimum custody unit (much of the rest of Lewis is close custody or protective segregation). Like the murderers who escaped from Kingman this summer, Palmer's deadly cellmate was listed as only a 3/3 internal/external security risk. Palmer was a 2/2. My bet is that they were part of the shuffle to appease the public's sense of security, but no one took into account the safety of the prisoners. Just looking at their records would tell you that these two guys weren't at all "similarly situated" in such a way that would justify putting Palmer in with Rushing, even temporarily.
My bet is that an insurance risk assessor determined that the state would save more money by bunking first-degree killers and mentally ill vandals together than they would lose from lawsuits if a prisoner was murdered - especially if they put people with no voice or family to care about them in with the real bad guys. Besides, how often does the public object to prisoners being murdered here? Unless it was another prisoner that did the killing, we won't even prosecute them, apparently. I hope Palmer has family that will sue the state for everything that Marcia Powell's mother wouldn't for housing him with Rushing. I'm sorry that won't bring him back home to them, though. The poor guy was almost done with his sentence when he was killed.
Please register your dismay about Palmer's murder wherever you see the news on it pop up, so the state gets the message that it's NOT okay to put vulnerable people at risk this way. This is especially disturbing because I recently received a letter from another prisoner with a mental illness who's terrified that he's being moved to a unit where he'll be murdered, too - it came Saturday, and was written before Palmer was killed. "Manuel", who has no family to fight for him, says it's the gangs doing all this killing - and he's not the only prisoner to write to me for help about their housing or custody arrangements out of fear of being set up for a gang hit or otherwise victimized. Apparently the killers and gangs have more control over the prisons than Director Ryan and his people do these days.
His cell mate, convicted murderer Jasper Rushing, is believed to have castrated Palmer, someone with knowledge of the incident told CBS 5 News. Palmer was serving a three-year sentence for criminal damage out of Maricopa County. It was the fourth time Palmer was in prison, according to a Department of Corrections spokesman. The spokesman said that an investigation is ongoing.