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$1.4 Million Awarded in Kansas Prisoner Death

In August, 2003 a State Jury in
Leavenworth County, Kansas, awarded the son of a Kansas State prisoner who was killed after being stabbed by another prisoner on August 8, 2000, $1.4 million. Donald R. Grisham was stabbed on his 27th birthday at the Lansing Correctional Facility laundry room. He died four days later at a hospital.

The suit was brought by Grisham's former wife on behalf of their 8 year old son. Grisham, who was serving five years and 10 months for multiple offenses, became embroiled in two "heated arguments" with prisoner William Dennis. The arguments were within the sight and sound of guard John Pfannenstiel. Dennis ultimately stabbed Grisham twice in the chest and once in the head with a homemade knife with a 9 1/2 inch blade.

After Grisham's death, the Kansas Department of Corrections' (KDOC) investigation revealed Phannenstiel had had sex with three male prisoners whom he supervised. This led to Phannenstiel's firing and conviction on felony charges, the Department also learned that Dennis had complained about Phannenstiel and asked to be removed from his work crew, but was never removed.

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of the plaintiff by attorneys Jim Crabtree and Charles Kugler, named the state as a defendant because it oversees the KDOC. The award is believed to be the biggest handed down by a Leavenworth County jury.

"The jury was really making a statement that they were dissatisfied with the way the system handled this matter, and life," said Kugler. Although the jury awarded $1.4 million, Crabtree said he expected the award to be reduced to $500,000, which is all the state required to pay under law.For his part in the killing, Dennis pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years. g

Source: The Kansas City Star

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