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Rikers Island Gunshot Victims' Suit Dismissed

A New York state court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by two men who claimed they were shot while asleep at the Rikers Island prison in New York City.

Bronx Judge Alison E. Tuitt dismissed the suit on May 21, 2004four days into the trialbecause the prisoners had not shown that the guards knew they were in danger.

Attorney for one of the plaintiffs, Emil J. Sanchez, said the pair would appeal the decision because it is not necessary to show that prison officials knew a danger existed in cases where security procedures were not followed. Sanchez said the city has extensive protocols to ensure that weapons are not smuggled into its prisons.

Three prisoners had originally filed suit: James Mingo and Douglas Harris, who were shot in the chest, and Larry Browning, who was shot in the arm. Mingo withdrew from the lawsuit shortly before the case went to trial.

If the case had not been dismissed early on, the defense intended to argue that the prisoners shot themselves as part of a plan to collect damages from the city. According to Mark S. Cheffo, an attorney representing the city, investigators learned of the plan from Mingo's girlfriend, who confessed to smuggling in the gun.

Sanchez discounted the woman's claim, saying she had been "spurned" by Mingo and was hoping to "cut some type of deal on another charge."

Sanchez further asserted that the city was engaged in a "cover-up," attempting to shift responsibility for the smuggled weapon from the prison guards to the plaintiffs.

"Without involvement of corrections officers," said Sanchez, "it is very difficult to smuggle a gun into a prison."

Browning was represented by Emil J. Sanchez, who served as trial counsel for Friedman & Khafif; Harris was represented by Amelio Marino of Marino & Venetziano. See: Harris v. City of New York , court unknown, Case No. 578/98.

PLN routinely reports on prisoners being shot or shooting themselves in US detention facilities.

Source: New York Law Journal

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Related legal case

Harris v. City of New York