The severe beating of a prison inmate by Roxbury Correctional Institution guards in 2008 was “the Roxbury way” of punishing prisoners who hit correctional officers, a federal prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday at one officer’s trial.
The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes Wednesday afternoon before recessing for the night in the trial of suspended Sgt. Josh Hummer. He is accused of failing to stop several other officers from beating and kicking inmate Kenneth Davis. Hummer’s lawyer said his client never saw the beating that left Davis with a broken nose, back and ribs.
Hummer was indicted in February on four counts.
The trial centered on claims that Hummer joined others at the correctional institution in violating Davis’ civil rights while the state inmate was being held at the prison near Hagerstown. Davis has since recovered and was released in 2012.
Hummer’s is the first trial stemming from federal indictments of 15 current or former officers on charges they conspired to systematically beat Davis after he bloodied a guard’s nose in a scuffle. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said it’s trying to achieve what state prosecutors failed to do in a series of trials more than five years ago: Persuade a jury that any of the officers broke the law.
Attorney Clarke Ahlers accused prosecutors of manipulating evidence to fit their theory that Hummer joined others in violating Davis’ rights.
Federal prosecutors don’t allege that Hummer actively participated in the beating. He allegedly failed to stop other officers from beating and kicking Davis; failed to get medical help for the inmate; and conspired in a cover-up that included destroying incriminating surveillance video.
“That’s the Roxbury way,” prosecutor Forrest Christian told the jury. “When an inmate hits an officer, the next three shifts are going to beat that inmate.”
Ahlers countered that Hummer is “a man with an exemplary reputation,” wrongly accused. He acknowledged that Hummer had lied early on, telling investigators that Davis’ cell door was closed when he walked by looking for a pair of gloves. But Hummer voluntarily corrected his account days later, telling a Maryland State Police detective that all he saw through the open cell door was an officer squatting down to talk to Davis as the inmate lay beneath his bunk with his face to the wall.
“There was nothing to where, as a sergeant, I would have stopped to really address,” Hummer told investigators in a statement Ahlers read aloud to the jury.
Twelve defendants have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other offenses in federal court. Two more await trial.
Nine Roxbury officers, not including Hummer, were charged in state court shortly after the beating. Just two were convicted after taking plea deals and defying what one called “the brotherhood of silence” to testify against co-workers. Five were acquitted, one had charges dropped before trial and one had charges dropped after his trial ended in a hung jury.
Davis, 47, of Baltimore, was serving a 19-year sentence for robbery when he was assaulted. He was released in October 2012.
Federal prosecutors said in a filing that Davis received about $100,000 to settle his administrative complaint against state authorities, including several of the indicted officers.