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Pro Se Texas Prisoner Awarded $1.08 Million in Failure to Protect Suit

In May, 1999, a federal jury in San Antonio, Texas, awarded Texas prisoner William Wallace Campbell $80,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages in a failure to protect lawsuit. Campbell represented himself pro se throughout the action. This is the highest damage award to a pro se prisoner litigant that PLN is aware of.

Campbell argued that the Aryan Brotherhood (AB) believed he had informed on an AB member who had contraband at the Connally unit in Kenedy. As a result, the AB placed a contract on his life. Campbell requested a transfer to another prison for his own safety. Priscilla Miles, the prison classification chief, refused his request for protection. In May, 1997, Campbell was attacked by two AB members and suffered cuts, bruises and lost teeth as a result.

Campbell filed suit in federal court claiming Miles violated his Eighth Amendment right to physical safety. After a three day trial before a jury of six women and one man, presided over by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Primomo, the jury deliberated one hour before returning a verdict in his favor. Jury forewoman Darla Roy said "We were unanamous-no question. He presented a very convincing case." Roy said the message behind the $1 million in punitive damages was that even prisoners have a right to be protected.

Heather Brown, a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office, said their office would file a motion a for new trial and appeal the verdict. Campbell entered the prison system with a seventh grade education. He now has a masters degree and is scheduled for mandatory release later this year.

San Antonio Express

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Related legal case

Campbell v. _____