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Jury Trial Ends As Texas Prisoner Settled His Lawsuit against Prison Officials

Jury Trial Ends As Texas Prisoner Settled His Lawsuit against Prison Officials

A prisoner at the Telford Unit (TU) of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has settled his federal suit against two prison officials, for an unspecified sum, just after the start of his jury trial.

TU prisoner, Adam Longoria, filed suit in federal court alleging that the defendants, TU officials Warden David Hudson and Sergeant Donna Johnson, should have protected him from being stabbed by prisoners. After nearly two days of testimony, but before jury deliberations, the defendants agreed to pay Longoria an undisclosed sum on June 12, 2007.

Longoria, while serving time for escape, arrived at TU in November 1999. He involved himself with a gang called the Texas Syndicate, seeking protection from other prisoners. At some point, he became an informant for prison officials, supplying information on murders and weapons. At the trial, Johnson testified that on March 15, 2000, Longoria had informed her that members of the Texas Syndicate were going to kill Oscar Ramirez, a leader of the gang La Hermandad de Pistoleros Latinos (HPL), meaning “Brotherhood of the Latin Gunmen.” Johnson shared the information with Hudson, an assistant warden at the time, and Johnson and Hudson monitored the gang activity.

Despite Longoria’s warning, Ramirez was murdered by the Texas Syndicate on April 12, 2000. Longoria’s attorney, Chris Gale, told jurors that due to the information Longoria provided to prison officials, the Texas Syndicate then placed Longoria on their “hit” list. Even with Longoria’s status known to prison officials, he was housed in lockdown with Texas Syndicate members. According to Sergeant Johnson, a former colleague, Sergeant Rebecca Vann, informed her on May 26, 2000, that Longoria feared for his life. Johnson ordered Vann to investigate his claim. An investigation was never started, and on the morning of May 27, 2000, two prisoners stabbed Longoria 28 times with prison made knives, while he was being led to the showers by three guards. At least one of the prisoners punctured his lung.

Defense lawyers claimed Longoria had been attacked because he had not carried out a hit on a member of a different gang. They also blamed Vann for the stabbing since unwritten policy dictated that the first official to hear a life-endangerment-claim should be the one to conduct the investigation. The classification supervisor at TU, Zelda Glass, confirmed to Johnson that Vann should investigate Longoria’s claim. However, while Johnson stated that she could not reveal Longoria’s informant status to Vann, as nearby prisoners might overhear, Glass contradicted Johnson’s testimony, stating that she, Johnson and Vann were separated from prisoners in Glass’s office when the above conversation occurred. Johnson did admit that unrecovered documents from Longoria’s file should not have been removed.

At the time of the trial, Longoria was serving another sentence in TDCJ, stemming from 2004 charges. A lawyer for the defense, Shanna Molinare, attempted to ask Longoria about his current status in TDCJ, despite the trial judge forbidding it, and the jury was instructed to disregard the question. Longoria’s attorney, Gale, moved for a mistrial the next day, but the judge denied the request. The parties subsequently settled.

One unidentified juror stated “there was a lot of missing documents,” and further said she “would have liked to hear the lawyers wrap it all up at the end.”

Adam Longoria was represented by Chris Gale of San Antonio. See: Longoria v. State of Texas, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Tex.), Case no. 5:02-cv-00112-DF-CMC.

Source: Texarkana Gazette

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Related legal case

Longoria v. State of Texas