Former Death row inmate gets $200,000 for prison beatings

A for­mer death row in­mate has been award­ed over $200,000 in com­pen­sa­tion af­ter be­ing beat­en by a group of prison of­fi­cers in 2013. 

De­liv­er­ing an oral judge­ment at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain, yes­ter­day morn­ing, High Court Judge Kevin Ram­cha­ran up­held the as­sault and bat­tery law­suit brought by Dar­ryl Bis­soon. 

 

In his claim, Bis­soon was al­leg­ing that the first in­ci­dent oc­curred as for­mer Pris­ons Com­mis­sion­er Ster­ling Stew­art was tour­ing the con­demned sec­tion of the Port-of-Spain State Prison on De­cem­ber 12, 2013.  

At the time, Bis­soon was in the area as he was re­cent­ly con­vict­ed of the mur­der of Col­in De Lan­dro. Bis­soon even­tu­al­ly won his ap­peal and is cur­rent­ly await­ing a re­tri­al. 

Bis­soon claimed that he at­tempt­ed to get Stew­art’s at­ten­tion to make a com­plaint and was ig­nored. He said that af­ter Stew­art left the area, he was placed in an­oth­er cell away from the oth­er pris­on­ers and was beat­en.

He claimed that the fol­low­ing day, he was strip-searched and then tak­en to the toi­let area where he was beat­en by six oth­er of­fi­cers. 

 

He suf­fered blunt force trau­ma in­juries to his neck, head, arms, and ab­domen, from both in­ci­dents. 

In de­fend­ing the claim, State at­tor­neys de­nied that Bis­soon was beat­en on the first day and claimed that rea­son­able force was used against him, on the sec­ond, as he at­tempt­ed to stab a prison of­fi­cer while on his way to use to the toi­let. 

Tes­ti­fy­ing in the tri­al of the case in June, prison su­per­vi­sor Burr Do­man, who was one of the of­fi­cers who in­ter­vened when Bis­soon al­leged­ly lunged at the of­fi­cer, chal­lenged Bis­soon’s claims as he point­ed out that six of­fi­cers could not fit in the area that Bis­soon was al­leged­ly at­tacked. 

He claimed that the of­fi­cer who was at­tacked and an­oth­er col­league wres­tled for a short time be­fore he in­ter­vened and struck Bis­soon in his ribs. 

When quizzed by Bis­soon’s lawyer Ger­ald Ramdeen, Do­man could not give an ex­pla­na­tion for why Bis­soon’s med­ical re­ports said he suf­fered in­juries to his neck and head al­though he (Do­man) claimed that Bis­soon was not struck there in the ex­change. 

In his ev­i­dence, act­ing As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent Cur­tis James, who was the su­per­vi­sor on du­ty at the prison, when the first in­ci­dent al­leged­ly oc­curred, claimed that no records of the in­ci­dent were made as no force was used, as claimed by Bis­soon.

James could not speak about the oth­er al­leged in­ci­dent, on the fol­low­ing day, as he was not on du­ty. 

Dur­ing his tes­ti­mo­ny, James al­so ad­mit­ted that he was threat­ened by Bis­soon on the day of the first in­ci­dent but claimed that he did not take it se­ri­ous­ly. 

“It is rou­tine to be threat­ened. I am still alive to­day so we know that not all threats are car­ried out and are re­al,” James said. 

In as­sess­ing the com­pen­sa­tion for Bis­soon, Ram­cha­ran award­ed $140,000 in gen­er­al dam­ages for the in­juries Bis­soon suf­fered and $50,000 in ex­em­plary dam­ages, which is in­tend­ed to serve as a de­ter­rent against sim­i­lar con­duct by prison of­fi­cers in the fu­ture. 

Bis­soon was al­so rep­re­sent­ed by Dar­ryl Her­ralal and Umesh Ma­haraj.

Reporter: Derek Achong

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