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Pelican Bay $600,000 Wrongful Death Settlement

California taxpayers coughed up another $600,000 to settle a use-of-force lawsuit at Pelican Bay State Prison. The biggest chunk of the award goes to the family of Jesse Castillo, who was shot and killed by guards while engaged in a fistfight on Pelican Bay's "A" Yard.

"It was an unjustifiable shooting," said plaintiff attorney Catherine Campbell. "The officers knew there was going to be a fight and they allowed it to occur. Then they had no way of controlling the yard except to shoot at people."

The settlement brings to $6.2 million the amount of money the state has paid plaintiffs and lawyers over the last four years to settle cases of alleged excessive force, wrongful death and constitutional violations at Pelican Bay. Deputy A.G. James J. Petzke, who represented the department of corrections in the Castillo case, said the $600,000 settlement concedes not even "negligent behavior" on the part of prison officials.

"While I'd like to say its all about justice, the taxpayers of the state also would expect that we look at the scenario that could play out at trial, as well as the costs," Petzke said. "Unfortunately it's not just about justice."

Castillo's family gets $250,000 of the award. Another $100,000 goes to three other prisoners who were shot, but not killed, during the same incident. Another $100,000 goes to defense experts. The remaining $150,000 goes to attorneys, according to Campbell.

Sacramento Bee

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