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Angola Prisoner Wins $1.5 Million Verdict Against Five Guards for Assault

In January 2001, pro se prisoner John Poullard won a $1.5 million judgment against five guards who beat him in retaliation for other lawsuits and complaints he had previously filed.

Poullard, who is serving time at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, alleged that the five guards--identified as Captain Joseph Turner, Lieutenant Lonnie Edmonds, Sgt. Michael Levatino, Sgt. Don Thames, and Sgt. Michael Logan--beat him so severely that he suffered two broken ankles as well as other injuries.

Poullard represented himself pro se in the one-day trial in federal court in Baton Rouge. The jury awarded him $750,000 for his injuries and $750,000 in punitive damages against the five guards.

The guards deny Poullard's claim that they beat him for retaliatory reasons. Instead they claimed that it was Poullard who initiated the fight after resisting a transfer for "disciplinary" measures.

A spokesman for the Louisiana State Attorney General's office, which represented the guards at the trial, said the state, whose motion for a new trial was denied, is appealing the verdict.

In May 2001, U.S. District Judge James Brady delayed payment of the award to Poullard pending the appeal, but did order the guards to post a $2 million bond to ensure that Poullard will get paid if their appeal is unsuccessful.

This case is an example that persistence can pay off. Poullard filed this lawsuit in 1994, where it proceeded to bounce around the court system for more than six years before coming to trial. The guards had moved to dismiss Poullard's suit at one point, arguing that the 11th Amendment somehow immunized them for their conduct. A federal judge as well as the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Poullard's lawsuit could proceed since the 11th Amendment only protects state employees acting within the scope of their job, and beating an inmate is not a part of a guard's job.

Source: The Angolite; The Advocate ONLINE.

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Related legal case

Poullard v. Turner