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Pro Se Pennsylvania Prisoner Awarded $100,000 in Guard Attack

On February 25, 1999, a federal jury in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania awarded state prisoner Gerald Henderson $100,000 in compensatory and punitive damages stemming from an attack by prison guards.

On March 29, 1995, while imprisoned at SCI-Rockview, Henderson was using the phone in a prison cellblock when he was struck on the head with a three pound concrete block concealed in a potato chip bag. The concrete block was dropped from the fourth tier of the cellblock by prison guard David Fortson and Sergeant Paul Sherry. After his head was stitched, Henderson was denied further medical attention and spent two months in administrative segregation before being transferred to a different prison. Two prisoners who witnessed the attack were transferred to different prisons two days later.

Henderson filed suit, claiming that the attack violated his Eighth amendment rights. A month prior to the attack, Sherry and Fortson had come to Henderson's cell and verbally harassed him.

Henderson represented himself pro se at the four day jury trial. The jury found Fortson and Sherry liable for the attack and ordered each of them to pay Henderson $25,000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages, totaling $100,000.

At the trial, the defendants denied attacking Henderson, but the jury rejected their testimony as incredible and fantastic. They unsuccessfully argued that another prisoner had dropped the concrete block on Henderson. The defendants are appealing the verdict to the Third circuit appeals court. See: Henderson v. Mazurkiewicz, USDC, MD PA, Case No. 4:CV-97-250.

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Related legal case

Henderson v. Mazurkiewicz