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Texas Settles with Hanged Prisoner's Family

The state of Texas agreed in June 1999 to pay $215,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Rodney Hulin, a 17-year-old Texas state prisoner who was found hanging in his cell in 1996.

About 30 days after arriving at the Clements unit in Brazoria, Texas, Hulin told guards he had been raped. A physician's assistant found tears in Hulin's rectum but failed to perform a rape test. Instead, he gave the 17-year-old an AIDS test and then concluded the boy was constipated and prescribed Metamucil.

After being again repeatedly raped, Hulin asked to be placed in protective custody but prison officials declined to move him. Hulin wrote his parents and told them he was being raped. His mother, Linday Bruntmyer called the warden and he told her that prisoners rape each other and her son needed to be a big boy, she told The Houston Press.

The warden at the time, James Byrd, told The Press that no investigation could be completed at the time because Hi in refused to tell officials who had raped him. But an interoffice memo sent from a guard to the warden stated that Hulin claimed his cellmate was raping him. In the memo he names names and gives details. After prison officials declined to release the memo, the guard who wrote it gave a copy to the Hulin family attorney, Robert Rosenberg.

Hulin also told prison health workers and three other guards that his cellmate was attacking him both physically and sexually. "It's easy to determine who his cellmate was. He only had one," Rosenburg told The Press.

Hulin was eventually moved to a segregation cell, not for protection but because he refused to work. At about 10:20 p.m. on the day of his death Hulin handed a note to a man in the next cell and told him to give it to the guard in a few minutes. He tied a sheet around his locker box and around his neck.

The guard took the note but didn't read it until after he finished his rounds. When he read it, he ran back to Hulin's cell I and with the help of other guards cut the boy down. Hulin wasn't dead but severely brain damaged. He died months later of pneumonia.

Rosenberg said that whether Hulin was actually raped was not the central issue. "How the prison responded to the boy saying he was raved is the key point. They didn't perform a rape test; they didn't investigate the allegations; they didn't report the rape to the district attorney," he added.

The Houston Press

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