10/11/07 Look at the MSN headline on the internet, video of what we saw on TV is on their home page where this article is listed. Thank you, Flo
Guards acquitted in boot camp death
Jury took just 90 minutes to decide in case of 14-year-old
The Associated Press
Updated: 12:29 p.m. CT Oct 12, 2007
PANAMA CITY, Fla. - Seven former boot camp guards and a
nurse were acquitted Friday of manslaughter in the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit and kicked by the drill instructors in a videotaped altercation.
The video of a limp Martin Lee Anderson being hit and kicked by the guards after he collapsed while exercising drew protests in the state capital and spelled the end of Floridas system of boot camps for juvenile offenders. Anderson died at a hospital the day after the altercation.
The defendants, however, said they followed the rules at a get-tough facility where young offenders often feigned illness to avoid exercise, and their attorneys said that Anderson died not from rough treatment, but from a previously undiagnosed blood disorder.
Former guard Henry McFadden later said he was relieved that the case was over: We were innocent all along. We knew this truth would come out, he told Court TV.
The boys mother, Gina Jones, stormed out of the courtroom after the verdict was read. I cannot see my son no more. Everybody see their family members. Its wrong, she said, distraught.
Her lawyer, Benjamin Crump, told reporters outside: You kill a dog, you go to jail. You kill a little black boy and nothing happens.
Andersons family had long sought a trial, claiming the state tried to cover up the case, and repeatedly sat through the painful video as it played during trial.
The all-white jury took about 90 minutes to decide whether the guards were responsible for the death of Anderson, who was black. The guards, who are white, black and Asian, stood quietly as the judge read the verdicts.
The defendants would have faced up to 30 years in prison had they been convicted of aggravated manslaughter of child. The jury could
have convicted them of lesser charges, including child neglect and culpable negligence, but did not.
Defense: Boy was faking illness
Aside from hitting Anderson, the guards dragged him around the military-style camps exercise yard and forced him to inhale ammonia capsules in what they said was an attempt to revive him. The nurse stood by watching.
Defense attorneys argued that the guards properly handled what they thought was a juvenile offender faking illness to avoid exercising on his first day in the camp. He was brought there for violating probation for stealing his grandmothers car and trespassing at a school.
The defense said Andersons death was unavoidable because he had undiagnosed sickle cell trait, a usually harmless blood disorder that can hinder blood cells ability to carry oxygen during physical stress.
Prosecutors said the eight defendants neglected the boy by neglecting his medical needs after he collapsed while running laps. They said the defendants suffocated Anderson by covering his mouth and forcing him to inhale ammonia.
You may not hear anything coming out of that video sound-wise, but that video is screaming to you in a loud, clear voice, it is telling you that these defendants killed Martin Lee Anderson, prosecutor Scott Harmon said in his closing argument.
Autopsies in dispute
Anderson died Jan. 6, 2006, when he was taken off life support, a day after the altercation. The case quickly grew and shook up the states boot camp and law enforcement system amid the boys family alleging a cover-up.
An initial autopsy by the medical examiner for Bay County found Anderson died of natural causes from sickle cell trait. A second
autopsy was ordered and another doctor concluded that the guards suffocated Anderson through their repeated use of ammonia capsules and by covering his mouth.
The death led to the resignation of Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Guy Tunnell, who established the camp when he was Bay County sheriff.
Then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Mark Ober, state attorney for Hillsborough County, as special prosecutor in the case. Bush also scolded Tunnell for exchanging e-mails with current Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen, in which he criticized those who questioned the effectiveness of the boot camp concept. He also made light of the protesters in the state capital.
The Legislature agreed to pay Andersons family $5 million earlier this year to settle civil claims.
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may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
People Against Prison Abuse aka PAPA