Federal judge reduces inmate’s award to $75,005

By Brian Bowling
Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A state prison inmate who successfully sued the Department of Corrections will get less than half the amount the jury awarded him, a federal judge decided Tuesday.

Andre L. Jacobs, 29, claimed in a 2004 lawsuit that prison guards at SCI-Pittsburgh in 2003 illegally confiscated and destroyed about 150 pages of his legal documents after discovering they were part of a lawsuit against the guards. An eight-person jury deliberated for three days in 2008 before awarding Jacobs $185,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti partially granted a state motion and reduced the award to $115,000 in September 2009. The order Conti issued Tuesday further reduces five of the compensatory damage awards for mental harm and anguish from amounts ranging between $5,000 and $10,000 to $1 each, leaving him with an award of $75,005.

Jacobs has been in state custody since he was 15 years old, according to court documents. He is serving a state prison sentence of five to 18 years mostly for offenses he committed in prison. Details of his original conviction are unclear.

He also is serving a federal sentence of 17 years and six months in prison for assaulting two U.S. Marshals who were escorting him in 2005 after he lost a separate federal civil lawsuit.

Read more: Federal judge reduces inmate’s award to $75,005 – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Read the original story of how André was awarded 185,000 in 2008 here. We hope that André is released soon and that he can start living again, instead of being tortured, harassed and having his court documents stolen!

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s 1982 death sentence is again declared unconstitutional

From: SF Bay View
April 26, 2011

by Melquiades Gagarin, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund

Mumia Abu-Jamal, one of the world’s best known political prisoners, is feared by the powers that be for his revolutionary journalism – he was minister of information for the Philadelphia Black Panther Party at the age of 15 and in more recent years his commentaries have been broadcast by NPR (National Public Radio) and the Pacifica radio network and published widely, including by the Bay View – and for his millions of supporters around the world.

April 26 – The United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit has unanimously declared that Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence is unconstitutional. In today’s decision, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed its 2008 finding that Mr. Abu-Jamal’s sentencing jury was misled about the process for considering evidence supporting a life sentence.

The court found that, in violation of the United States Supreme Court’s 1988 decision in Mills v. Maryland, the jury was improperly led to believe that that it could only consider unanimously agreed upon evidence favoring a life verdict. This mistake rendered Mr. Abu-Jamal’s death sentence fundamentally unfair. The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), and Professor Judy Ritter of Widener Law School represent Mr. Abu-Jamal in this appeal of his 1982 conviction and death sentence for the murder of a police officer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“This decision marks an important step forward in the struggle to correct the mistakes of an unfortunate chapter in Pennsylvania history,” said John Payton, director-counsel of LDF. “Again acknowledging the existence of clear constitutional error in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s trial, the Court of Appeals’ decision enhances confidence in the criminal justice system and helps to relegate the kind of unfairness on which this death sentence rested to the distant past.”

Professor Ritter noted: “Pennsylvania long ago abandoned the confusing and misleading instructions and verdict slip that were relied on in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s trial in order to prevent unfair and unjust death sentences. Courts now use clear and unambiguous language to advise sentencing juries about their ability to consider evidence that favors a life verdict. Mr. Abu-Jamal is entitled to no less constitutional protection.”

Mumia Abu-Jamal has been on death row in Pennsylvania for 29 years.

Melquiades Gagarin of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., can be reached at mgagarin@naacpldf.org or (212) 965-2783.

Court Order Ensures Treatment For Prisoners With Disabilities

April 13, 2011
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

NEW ORLEANS, LA — In a victory for Louisianans with disabilities, today a federal court in New Orleans entered a consent decree requiring adequate treatment and care long denied to detainees with mental illness housed in the state’s prisons. This agreement provides mental health care to those charged with crimes but lacking the mental capacity to stand trial. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of one detainee and the Advocacy Center, a non-profit corporation designated by the state to protect and advocate for persons with disabilities.

For years, pretrial detainees who needed restorative mental health treatment were denied such care because Feliciana Forensic Facility, the state facility providing that treatment, has been out of bed space. The lack of treatment beds meant that many detainees ordered by the courts into the custody of Feliciana have remained in local jails without the ability to go to trial, for periods sometimes exceeding a year, despite their presumed innocence. This settlement ensures that the detainees will now be transferred to Feliciana in a timely manner, so that they can have their day in court.

“For years, pretrial detainees with mental illness in Louisiana were denied court-ordered forensic care, which meant that sick people who had not been convicted of any crimes were languishing in our jails,” said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana, which represents the plaintiffs. “Under this agreement, the most vulnerable among us will now have the care they need. It’s long past time for the State of Louisiana to recognize its responsibility towards people with disabilities in its custody.”

The settlement ensures a host of reforms. Inpatient treatment will now be provided within 30 days of a finding of need, so that detainees will no longer have to wait months or years for medical help. Procedures have been established to ensure that adequate testing will be administered promptly and that those with emergency mental health needs will be transferred to Feliciana within two working days of assessment. Those with lesser but urgent needs will be transferred within ten working days. Ongoing reporting will ensure that these procedures are met and that all who qualify will receive the appropriate level of care. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana will provide oversight for the implementation of the order.

“This case was designed to enforce state court orders that require detainees to receive treatment,” said Marjorie Lindblom, a partner with Kirkland & Ellis LLP, a private law firm that has represented the plaintiffs pro bono. “The people affected by this agreement must receive proper care so that their competence to stand trial can be restored, if possible. Until now they’ve been denied that care and kept in jail for months or years. They will now be assured the care they need, so that the justice system can work for all of us.”

Lois Simpson, Executive Director of the Advocacy Center states: “The conclusion of this case ensures that hundreds of prisoners with mental illness get the mental health treatment they need. The Advocacy Center, Louisiana’s Protection and Advocacy agency, will continue to advocate until all Louisianans with mental illness receive quality mental health treatment.”

The plaintiffs were represented by ACLU of Louisiana Legal Director Katie Schwartzmann; Marjorie Lindblom, Maura Klugman, and Adam Humann from the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP; as well as Nell Hahn, Miranda Tait and Conception Otero from the Advocacy Center.

A copy of the Consent Decree is available here: www.laaclu.org/PDF_documents/Feliciana_Signed_consent_decree_041311.pdf