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Three Texas Guards Indicted in Beating Death

In the July issue of PLN we reported "Judge Rules Texas Prisoner's Death Excessive Force" about Gary Crenshaw, 31, who died at the hands of his captors January 26, 1997, at the French Robertson Unit.

On June 30, 1997, a Jones County grand jury indicted Sgt. Monte Baker and guards Michael Helms and Bradley Johnson on manslaughter charges.

Prison officials maintain that Crenshaw passed out while guards were restraining him after a violent outburst. An administrative review at the prison found that excessive force was not used.

But Taylor County justice of the peace Sam Matta ruled that Crenshaw died by asphyxiation and termed his death a homicide.

Jones County grand jurors, however, did not address the possible use of excessive force, finding only that Baker, Helms, and Johnson failed to seek medical aid for the dying Crenshaw. If convicted of the second degree felony, the three could face up to 20 years in prison.

PLN readers might remember a similar case two years ago. On May 23, 1995, Texas prison guard Joel Lambright was convicted of manslaughter for beating and kicking to death Terrell unit prisoner Michael McCoy. Lambright was the first Texas guard ever to be convicted of killing a prisoner. He was given a 2-10 year prison term. [See: PLN, Vol. 6, Nos. 1 and 9].

After Lambright had served only three months of his prison term, however, district court Joe Ned Dean granted a motion filed by his attorney to convert the remainder of his sentence to shock probation.

We will keep our readers updated on the criminal proceedings against the three guards charged with killing Gary Crenshaw.

Associated Press

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