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French Robertson Prisoner Wins Suit

On October 20, 1997, federal court jurors ruled that Texas prison guards assaulted French Robertson prisoner Andre Dunkins in 1996, but awarded no monetary damages.

Dunkins, who represented himself, convinced jurors that prison guards Ted Vinita and Robert Steele slapped him repeatedly July 17, 1996, while Sgts. Richard Aynes and Monte Baker watched. But jurors ruled that Dunkins suffered no injuries and awarded him no compensation. The verdict form revealed something was written and erased on the page concerning compensation before a zero was scribbled down.

Dunkins claimed that Sgt. Aynes accused him of being a snitch because he thought Dunkins had reported on guards for smoking in the unit, a violation of state rules. Dunkins also said that Steele repeatedly slapped him as Vinita "made it plain" that he would be killed if he filed a use of force grievance.

A prison spokesman reported that Dunkins signed a form during the grievance process saying he didn't want to pursue his claims. As a result, said the prison spokesman, an investigation of the guards was not pursued by prison officials.

Court observers were impressed by Dunkins' presentation and arguments in the case. He defeated two lawyers from the Texas attorney general's office.

A Jones County, TX, grand jury indicted Sgt. Baker on a manslaughter charge in June in connection with the death of French Robertson prisoner Gary Crenshaw. [See: "Three TX Guards Indicted in Beating Death", PLN Vol. 8, No. 10]

Abilene Reporter News

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