Police misconduct in Mississippi drew nationwide attention after the 2006 beating death of a Harrison County jail inmate, which led to a lawsuit filed by the victim’s family and a $3.5 million payout by county officials.
The 2007 settlement was reached by the county supervisors following the beating of Jessie Lee Williams Jr., who was booked on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct on Feb. 4, 2006, and died two days later. County officials stated that $1 million of the payout would be covered by insurance, but planned to issue bonds for the remainder of the settlement, Insurance Journal reported
The settlement involved Harrison County, the board of supervisors, the sheriff’s department and sheriff’s employees.
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The fatal beating led to the conviction of former jailer Ryan Teel on charges that included the murder of Williams, the Gulfport Sun Herald reported
. Teel was sentenced to life in prison. Nine ex-jailers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deprive an inmate’s rights through excessive and unnecessary use of force.
The Huffington Post reported that deputies
in the county jail had emptied the contents of a can of pepper spray into a hood. They then placed the hood over the head of Williams while the inmate was confined to a restraint chair. Williams later died of kidney failure.
The Sun Herald received a copy of the videotaped beating after filing a lawsuit and getting a court order. The surveillance tapes were later made available for the public on the newspaper’s website.
Andrew Kreig of the Justice Integrity Project wrote
that the security cameras show a guard kicking WiIliams in the groin. After officers handcuffed him behind his back in the booking room hallway, they “beat and kicked him relentlessly” while other jail workers walked by without interest. Kreig stated that even though only Teel had caused the death, according to prosecutors, the videotape showed others had struck “serious blows” to Williams as well.
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