A fight with his cellmate, Joe Greggs, led to the January 19, 2016 death of prisoner Alton Rodgers at the William P. Clements Unit in Texas. An official report listed Rodgers’ fatal injury as trauma consistent with having his head “slammed onto the concrete floor,” and his death was investigated as a homicide.
But why was the 31-year-old prisoner seriously ill when the fight occurred? Rodgers’ family raised that question and others in a $120 million wrongful death suit filed by attorney Jesse Quackenbush in October 2016.
According to Northwest Texas Hospital records, after the altercation with Greggs, Rodgers was admitted to the hospital with hypoglycemia, a urinary tract infection, dehydration, bilateral bronchopneumonia, bed sores indicating prolonged immobility and other medical conditions. He was severely underweight, weighing only 148 pounds while standing 6’7”.
The complaint alleged that Rodgers also suffered from untreated tuberculosis which contributed to his death.
Quackenbush told The Intercept in January 2017, “The purpose of the lawsuit is to change the way [the state of Texas] treats inmates who are suffering very serious diseases.” The case remains pending. See: Rodgers v. Martin, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Tex.), Case No. 2:16-cv-00216-J-BB.
Following Rodgers’ death, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reprimanded 17 guards for falsifying documents and recommended the firing of their supervisor, Major Rowdy Boggs, who resigned during the disciplinary process. Senior Warden Barry Martin and Assistant Warden James Beach both retired from the Clements Unit the month after Rodgers died.
The families of two other prisoners who died at the Clements Unit in 2013 have also filed wrongful death suits against the TDCJ. Christopher Douglas Woolverton, 51, suffered from asthma and had symptoms of chronic kidney disease when he was found dead in his cell in a pool of his own excrement, while Arcade Joseph Comeaux, 56, had trouble breathing and suffered a heart attack after struggling with guards.
“We’ve gotten a lot of disturbing reports of serious abuse at the Clements Unit in recent years,” said attorney Benjamin Haile, who represents the families of Comeaux and Woolverton. “It’s hard to prove what goes on behind prison walls, but we think that the events leading to the death of Mr. Woolverton provide a rare opportunity to expose some of that abuse.”
Sources: www.theintercept.com, www.amarillo.com
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