On November 1, 2021, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) agreed to a settlement under which the state agreed to pay $405,794.06 to the mother of a state prisoner murdered by his cellmate after guards who placed them together failed to notice that one’s gang affiliation posed a threat to the other.
Rodney DeLong, 28, was a prisoner at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) in Susanville with just seven months left to serve of his nine-year sentence when he was transferred to a new cell on May 6, 2018, during a “cell-compaction.” According to a lawsuit later filed on his behalf, he was also a known enemy of the Aryan Brotherhood (AB) prison gang.
However, guards processing the move allegedly failed to vet the reassignment through CDCR’s Strategic Offender Management System (SOMS), a computerized database that lists characteristics—such as gang affiliation—which might make two prisoners’ incompatible cellmates.
In fact, it turned out they had placed DeLong in a cell with 44-year-old Robert Stockton, an AB member who, on October 15, 2016, allegedly carried out a killing for the gang of another prisoner, 53-year-old Doug Maynard, using a homemade knife.
Sometime not long after making the cell move, one of the guards realized that it hadn’t been run through SOMS, and he ordered DeLong removed from the cell. By the time guards arrived, however, the prisoner was already lying in a pool of his own blood, and Stockton dropped a homemade knife through the food port of the cell door.
DeLong was pronounced dead of his injuries just 32 minutes after arriving in his new cell.
His mother filed suit on January 7, 2020, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, accusing CDCR and several HDSP guards of civil rights violations and negligence resulting in her son’s wrongful death.
A September 2021 ruling in the case by U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley said that guards would not be entitled to qualified immunity from damages for their actions if their failure to utilize SOMS placed DeLong at “significant risk of damage.”
“Because the protection of the Eighth Amendment from willful indifference to the health and safety of inmates is an established constitutional right,” Nunley concluded, “Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity.”
After that, the parties proceeded to reach their settlement agreement. DeLong’s mother was represented in her suit and its settlement by Susanville attorney Eugene B. Chittock.
See: DeLong v. Carrillo, 2:20-cv-00190-TLN-DB (E.D. Cal. Sep. 9, 2021)
Additional source: rkenneylaw.com
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Related legal case
DeLong v. Carrillo
|2:20-cv-00190-TLN-DB (E.D. Cal. Sep. 9, 2021)