Most readers will remember the story of Tony Lester, a 26-year old seriously mentally ill Native American AZ state prisoner who cut his throat in Tucson prison in July 2009. He bled out over the course of at least ten minutes as five AZ Department of Corrections officers stood around and watched without making the slightest effort to render first aid. The family filed a massive lawsuit against the AZ DOC for their failure to act (and for giving Tony the razor in the first place), but the critical part that was lodged against those five officers was dismissed last month. Once I have a copy of Judge Talamante's ruling on that, I'll be writing my own response to him.
Thanks to the work of Wendy Halloran and Channel 12 News at KNPX, those officers actions are at least visible for the rest of the community to see now. The names of the brave and noble AZ Department of Corrections officers watching Tony die are: Orlando Pope, Humberto Hernandez, Rene Barcelo, Dale Brown, and Danielle Pedroso. The judge apparently agreed with experts who said that since these officers couldn't have saved Tony's life if they tried, it's alright that they didn't even bother.
I wonder if five police officers did nothing at an accident scene but film the dying victims, for example, if that kind of abdication of a first-responder's duty to care would have been okay with this judge as well. That's not equal protection under the law if it's acceptable for officers to withhold first aid from a dying prisoner just because they're too freaked out to render it, but it's not alright for a first responder in the community to do so. These peace officers should all lose their AZ POST certification for their gross neglect of duty - they shouldn't even be allowed to be security guards for McDonald's: children would end up choking to death while these idiots record it for Youtube.
Please, after viewing this report, reach out to KPNX at firstname.lastname@example.org and thank them for caring enough about mentally ill prisoners to air it. We want them to cover such human rights violations in the prisons more in the future.
KPNX 12 News | azcentral.com
What follows is the argument that the lawyers made defending the inaction of these officers to Channel 12 News before the above video was released - presumably this was what they pitched to Judge David Talamante, who fell for it and threw the case out.
From: David Cantelme [mailto:David@cantelaw.com]
Dr. Meislin would have testified that under the specific circumstances of this case, application of pressure to Mr. Lester’s neck wounds was not called for and would not have served any useful purpose. Dr. Meislin was also of the opinion that no act or alleged omission by ADC employees in responding to Mr. Lester’s emergency caused or contributed to his death. Thank you for your attention to these facts.
12 News | azcentral.com
12 News investigative reporter Wendy Halloran has been asking questions for more than two years about what happened to Tony Lester.
Halloran’s public records’ requests to the Arizona Department of Corrections began in the fall of 2010, just months after Lester died. In June 2011, she requested a copy of a video that captured how corrections officers responded when they found Lester bleeding in his cell. ADOC denied the request, citing the privacy interests of Lester’s surviving family members, who had filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging officers stood by and and did not render first aid.
In July 2012, Halloran renewed her request for the video. It was again denied.
In September, Halloran tried again with the permission of Tony Lester’s family. ADOC denied her request a third time. Later that month, Halloran was allowed to watch the video at the law firm representing the state. She then requested the first 12 minutes of the video that showed how the officers responded. She was again denied.
12 News filed a special action in Superior Court in October asking that a judge review the matter. The following month, ADOC was ordered to produce the video to the station. The judge found ADOC wrongfully denied Halloran’s public records request, and the department agreed to pay more than $26,000 in attorneys’ fees to the station.
Watch Wendy Halloran’s previous reports on Tony Lester:
• 12 News investigation leads to viewer outrage over inmate's suicide
• Arizona inmate's family watches his death video
• Arizona inmate suicide: Failure to aid, Part 2
• Arizona inmate suicide: Did correction officers fail to administer aid?