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Washington DOC Pays $3,275,000 to Family of Deputy Killed by Former Prisoner

In September 2009, the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed to settle a wrongful death suit filed by the family of a King County deputy who was murdered by a recently-released prisoner.

On December 2, 2006, while responding to a 911 call, Deputy Steve Cox of the King County Sheriff’s Office, a former prosecutor, was shot and killed by Raymond O. Porter, a recent releasee from the DOC. After shooting Cox, Porter was shot by other deputies and then took his own life by shooting himself in the head.

Porter, an alleged gang member, had been sentenced in February 2003 to two years in prison and two years post-release supervision on a drug offense. While serving his sentence, he walked away from the Madison Work Release Pro-gram in June 2004.

Porter was subsequently apprehended, charged with escape, and ordered to serve an additional 33 months consecutive to the remainder of his first sentence. After being returned to prison, though, the DOC apparently failed to properly calculate his new sentence. As a result he was released early in August 2006.

The community corrections officer assigned to monitor Porter did not catch the error. Nor was that the officer’s only mistake. According to the lawsuit filed by Cox’s family, Porter repeatedly tested positive for illegal drug use, and even self-reported drug and alcohol use, but was not re-incarcerated and only received minor sanctions.

Just days after Cox was murdered, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, who had previously worked in a state probation and parole office, announced an investigation into that incident and two others in which Seattle-area law enforcement officers were killed by former prisoners on post-release supervision. [See: PLN, Nov. 2007, p.20].

In all three cases the prisoners had been sentenced under the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA), which includes shorter prison terms combined with substance abuse treatment and community supervision.

In March 2007, the DOC released a 90-page report following the investigation ordered by Governor Gregoire. The report found that due to Washington’s complex sentencing system, prisoners often had sentences that were incorrectly computed. Also, the DOC had insufficient drug treatment program beds; thus, all three former prisoners who killed officers after their re-lease did not get the treatment they were supposed to receive under their DOSA sentences. Further, community supervision officers were overworked and thus failed to properly monitor offenders – such as not conducting curfew checks, keeping current on paperwork, or giving required drug tests.

The DOC instituted new measures for monitoring released prisoners on community supervision following Cox’s death, including a new range of sanctions to determine what penalties will be imposed when an offender fails to comply with conditions of post-release supervision.
Had Porter not been released from prison early, and had his community supervision been revoked, Deputy Cox would not have been murdered, his family claimed. Thus, according to their suit, the DOC was grossly negligent in releasing Porter early and failing to properly monitor him on post-release supervision.

Almost three years after Cox’s death, on September 10, 2009, the DOC agreed to settle the lawsuit for $3,275,000. Cox’s family was represented by John Connelly of the Connelly Law Offices in Tacoma. See: Cox v. Washington State Department of Corrections, Superior Court for King County (WA), Case No. 08-2-18427-7.

Additional sources: DOC press release, www.seattlepi.com

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Cox v. Washington State Department of Corrections


 

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