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Texas Jury Awards BOP Prisoner $4 Million for Rape by Guard

DNA evidence and a powerful will to fight helped former federal Texas prisoner Marilyn Shirley win a sexual assault conAviction and a $4 million civil decision against a guard who raped her while she was being held in the Carswell federal prison camp in Fort Worth, Texas.

The June 2, 2003 civil award is perhaps the largest ever seen in a lawsuit filed over the sexual assault of a prisoner, and the jury in the case reportedly handed down the dramatic decision after only 15 minutes of deliberation.

Shirley alleged that Mike Miller raped her on the morning of March 12, 2000. Backing up her story were a pair of sweat pants that were stained with semen during the attack _ evidence that Shirley hid for over six months, until the day she was released from the BOP.

On that day, September 10, 2000, Shirley reported Miller's actions. Because Shirley was no longer incarcerated when she filed her civil suit, the legal obstacles of the Prison Litigation Reform Act did not apply to her case. Also working powerfully in her favor was Miller's decision to represent himself in court.

Soon after the civil decision, Miller was indicted by a federal Grand Jury on five felony counts, including aggravated sexual abuse, in connection with Shirley's case, and on February 10, 2004 he was convicted on all charges. In the criminal case, the jury took only an hour to come to its verdict. On July 2, 2004 Miller was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay Shirley $207,175 in restitution.

Since her release, Shirley has begun to speak out on behalf of prisoner rape victims and to push for policy reform. In September, she joined a group of survivors and the human rights group Stop Prisoner Rape in Washington D.C. to push for the since-passed federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. In front of an audience of legislators, media and spectators, the former prisoner gave an emotional speech about her experiences behind bars.

"I can still remember him whispering in my ear during the rape: `Do you think you're the only one?  Don't even think of telling, because it's your word against mine, and you will lose,'" Shirley told the crowd.   

Lara Stemple, executive director of Stop Prisoner Rape, said the size of the verdict in Shirley's case is unusual, but that her case symbolizes a shift in attitudes toward custodial sexual misconduct.

"For a long time, these kinds of situations have simply been swept under the rug," Stemple. "With cases like Marilyn's on the record, corrections departments can no longer take that approach. They simply can't afford to let these things happen." 

In the civil trials, Miller was represented by Arch McColl and Gina Joaquin of McColl & McColloch. See: Shirley v. Miller, Tarrant County Superior Court No. 4:02-CV-200-A. A federal prosecutor handled the criminal case, United States v. Miller, Case No. 403CR00226.


Source: Fort Worth Weekly

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Related legal cases

United States v. Miller

Shirley v. Miller