Last week a prisoner was killed in a case I think is very much related to the murder of an accused child predator, John Klatt, in MCSO's jail in January by similar means - except this time, I think the intended victim is the one who survived the confrontation.
In the January killing, it looks like the MCSO placed Klatt in minimum security with a ton of child molestation charges against him - an obvious attempt to have him executed by other prisoners before trial. 20 yo. Nike Black likely did the deed under order of one of the gangs, leaving him no choice but to kill the guy and be the hero, or or die as a coward himself. All the gangs police and punish the members of their own race in prison, whether or not those prisoners are gang members. That kid had a fresh charge that would have forced him to either seek protective custody in prison or do the gang's dirty work. The gang and yard leaders usually tell guys with domestic violence charges (or any offense against a woman) that they can only clear their own name by taking out some prisoner whose crime is worse than their own. What would most guys in similar shoes choose - and how much of a real choice is that, anyway? The MCSO helped force Black into that position, too, by celling him with Klatt.
The community has a lot to do with these extra-judicial execution of prisoners, as well - just look at the comments after this news article about the first of these two killings. Friends and family of both suspect and victim are there, and lots of people are giving the killer props for a job well done. For those of you who think accused pedophiles deserve to be executed, do you also think their killers deserve to have their lives destroyed as well? Because that's part of the collateral damage of extra-judicial executions and vigilantism - someone else then has to be punished for doing that job. Your champion, Nike Black's life will now be spent in prison and most likely shortened by violence and trauma, heroin addiction, or Hepatitis C (which most prisoners in this state contract during their incarceration...). In the meantime, you will all forget his noble sacrifice and he will become like all the other faceless, dehumanized prisoners you like to know are suffering.
Arpaio insisted in January that nothing could have been done to prevent Klatt's killing (How about segregating your sex offenders and child molesters from the rest of the population, as the AZ DOC does?) I think they have the right to be safe in custody, be they pre-trial or post-conviction. For those to whom guilt and innocence matters in prisoner rights cases, you're wrong. Let one be abused, and all are at risk - justifying punishments above and beyond those already sanctioned by the court, like rape of child predators, puts everyone in prison at greater risk, even the "good guys". But you should also be aware that up to 15% of convicted sex offenders may actually be innocent. What might the innocence rate be among those who have simply been accused? Sadly, all are condemned as soon as the news of their charges hits the media. Look at Courtney Bisbee.
So now we come to the current killing - a convicted prisoner awaiting sentencing on a violent crime who fears for his own safety is celled with an accused (and confessed) seriously mentally ill child killer awaiting trial, also fearing for his safety. If I was Walker's family's attorney, I'd look closely at Arpaio's refusal to take responsibility for re-visiting policies around celling people with crimes the rest of the prisoner population would find repugnant as the very reason that Walker ended up dead, even if Ward claims self-defense. As I observed earlier, the public was so pleased that the victim of the January attack was an accused pedophile that the MCSO wouldn't have felt much pressure to keep any other child predator in their custody safe from similar treatment. They were outright encouraged to set it up, in fact. It was ordained by that decision to cell those two together that one of the two parties would leave in a body bag - that was a reasonably forseeable event after the January homicide of John Klatt. That spells major liability.
In this more recent homicide, I wouldn't be surprised if Walker was celled with Ward by folks at the MCSO wagering on whether or not he would kill him. Walker did time before and was on his way back to the joint - I guarantee the gangs would have put a green light on Ward to "discipline" him for the way he killed his 12 year old younger brother; his celly would be the most likely person they'd order to do it, regardless of whether or not the guy was in a gang. If Walker didn't follow those orders he'd be hitting the prison gates as a target himself in a short two weeks - he was expressing fear for his safety as it was, according to this report. I think everyone just underestimated Ward's determination to stay alive, and his capacity for fighting back.
Really, all of these men's families need to sue, with Arpaio's name at the top of the list. MCSO complicity will likely not be proven in criminal court, of course - the investigators handling these cases will never even try to hold officers or Arpaio accountable in their reports. Only the prisoners will appear to be the violent ones in all this - that's consistent with the way the good Sheriff Joe implements justice in the community, too: he subverts it and ducks responsibility every chance he can.
I'm sure I'll have more to say about this case down the road, as more is learned about what community-based psychiatric help, if any, Ward and his family got before he killed his brother. For now, though, I think the real story is about the proclivity of law enforcement officers to act as judges, juries and executioners (or their accomplices); moreover, the willingness of their adoring public to accept it.
Andrew Ward, 27, was arrested early Thursday on suspicion of killing Douglas William Walker, who was awaiting sentencing on an armed robbery conviction, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff's officials said Walker was found "beaten, stabbed with a golf pencil and smeared with peanut butter over his head." He was discovered at about 7:30 p.m. when inmates notified detention officers on a security walk of a fight inside the cell.
Phoenix fire paramedics pronounced Walker dead on scene. Paramedics also determined that a plastic bag had been placed in Walker's nose and throat and obstructed his breathing.
Ward reportedly admitted to a play-by-play of the attack in an interview with detectives and told investigators that he had "no regrets," according to a sheriff's statement.
Ward relayed that he had cut Walker's throat with a plastic playing card, stabbed him in the eyes and throat with a golf pencil and finished the assault by stuffing a plastic bag down Walker's throat, according to a sheriff's statement.
Sheriff's Office spokesman Chris Hegstrom said Ward has been re-classifiedd and housed by himself in the Fourth Avenue Jail.
Both Ward and Walker were placed in segregated custody in the county jail system after each told jail administrators they feared for their safety, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Ward was arrested March 12 on suspicion of stabbing and killing his 12-year-old brother in a north Phoenix home last month, and pleaded not guilty to the allegations in a brief court hearing.
Walker pleaded guilty to armed robbery charges last month and was due to be sentenced, and likely transferred to the Department of Corrections, on April 11.
In September 2013 Walker and an accomplice robbed a man in a McDonald's parking lot on Indian School, threatening him with a knife and an Airsoft gun, a type of replica toy gun that fires plastic BB's, according to court documents.