by David M. Reutter
The Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) agreed on March 25, 2022, to pay $350,000 to resolve a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the estate of murdered prisoner Anthony Vidal.
The lawsuit was filed after Vidal was killed by his cellmate, Torrin Blue, on March 11, 2016, at Dade Correctional Institution (DCI). “Blue struck [Vidal] on his head, neck, and chest, fractured his ribs, lacerated his spleen, and choked him” for several minutes, according to the complaint later filed on the dead man’s behalf. Vidal cried for help, but the audio monitors in the housing unit were turned off, so guards could not hear him.
About 20 minutes after the attack began, a guard made a routine security check and found Vidal lying unresponsive in his cell, not breathing. He was pronounced dead. The cause of death was later determined to be asphyxiation.
The complaint alleged guards negligently placed Blue in Vidal’s cell days earlier, knowing full well that Blue was violent and mentally ill. Rather than placing Blue in a “single cell and housed in an appropriate setting for the confinement of mentally ill inmates,” he was placed in an administrative confinement cell with Vidal.
Guards, the complaint continued, knew that “Blue had a propensity for violence and was a dangerous and violent prisoner.” Just a month earlier, he “viciously assaulted another prisoner after being placed in a cell with the victim and the attack occurred in the presence of a guard.”
The complaint further alleged that with the exception of prison hospitals, DCI was the facility with the most deaths DOC. In 2016, there were 13 prisoner deaths at the lockup. Then, in 2017, there were 12 more. It was also alleged that DCI, like other Florida prisons, was understaffed and that low pay for guards left what little staff there was with insufficient experience, which “has contributed to an increase of violence in Florida prisons.”
The $350,000 settlement included fees and expenses for the estate’s attorneys: Erica Selig, Ray Taseff and Dante Trevisani of the Florida Justice Institute. The agreement resolved all claims against DOC and former guards Frederick Lester, Marc Fleurjean, Jeffrey Lamelas and Julio Monroy.
“We hope the settlement provides some degree of accountability to the prison system,” Selig said. “Sadly, [Vidal’s] tragic murder was not an isolated incident.” See: Vidal v. Fla. Dep’t of Corr., Fla. 11th Jud. Cir. (Dade Cty.), Case No. 2018-018812.
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