State must pay $.5m to 3 beaten inmates
THREE prisoners, who filed separate lawsuits against the State for assault and battery, have been awarded more than $.5 million in compensation and legal costs.
In the Port of Spain High Court yesterday, Justice Judith Jones ordered that Daniel Mendoza be paid general and aggravated damages in the sum of $110,000, exemplary damages in the sum of $30,000 and $30,000 in legal costs.
And in a consent order entered before Justice Carol Gobin yesterday, the State agreed to pay to Keron Matthews the sum of $100,000, inclusive of general damages, exemplary damages and interest and $24,000 in legal costs.
On Tuesday, Master of the Court Martha Alexander ordered that Jamal Fortune be awarded general and aggravated damages in the sum of $110,000, exemplary damages in the sum of $35,000 and legal costs in the sum of $20,142, with interest at six per cent per annum from September 11, 2009 to September 25, 2012.
All three men were represented by attorneys Varun Debideen and Kent Samlal.
Mendoza, 29, is awaiting trial at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca for the January 22, 2007, murders of WPC Elizabeth Sutherland, 47, her husband Ivan, 48, daughter Anika, 23, and Kevin Serrette.
The four were shot dead by four armed, masked men who broke into Sutherland's John Street Extension, Morvant home and opened fire.
In his witness statement filed in the Port of Spain High Court, Mendoza said another inmate was attempting to attack him on the morning of June 3, 2011 and he was trying to brace himself from any blows when they were told to stop by three prison officers who approached him. He said he was beaten with a baton and kicked all over his body for about 15 minutes.
Mendoza said he was bawling out in pain and was begging the officers to stop, but they continued until another officer told them to stop.
He said he was taken to the prison infirmary and was attended to before being placed back in his cell with bruises all over his body.
On June 8, 2011, Mendoza said he was seen by the prison doctor who examined his ear and informed him that his eardrum was ruptured. He was ordered taken to the Port of Spain General Hospital, where the diagnosis of the prison doctor was confirmed.
Mendoza said he continues to suffer from occasional blackouts whenever he looks upwards and has difficulty hearing in his right ear.
Matthews, 26, said he sustained injuries at the hands of a prisons officer on September 13, 2009.
He told the court the officer had accused him of having a knife in his possession in the airing yard of the prison. He said he was dealt a blow with a baton to his head, slapped, kicked and cuffed.
Matthews said he was ordered to wash off the blood which was flowing from his head and he was again questioned about the knife. He said he denied having any knowledge of the knife and was beaten again.
"By this time I was feeling very mashed up," Matthews said.
"I felt as though some of the bones in my body were broken. My ribs and hip were in extreme pain, as well as my head and shoulder."
Matthews said he was beaten for a third time after being made to wipe up his blood from the floor.
Fortune, 28, said his incident occurred on March 1, 2009 while he was in the airing yard.
He said he was accused by a prison officer of owing another prisoner $400.
Fortune said he denied this and was beaten on his head with batons to the point where he urinated on himself. He said one officer took his baton and placed it against his (Fortune's) neck and started choking him. The blows, he said, continued for a while.
He was taken to Port of Spain General Hospital where he was treated for an injury to his right hand, given medication, discharged and returned to the prison.