Illinois state police and corrections officials said they are investigating the death of a convicted rapist and kidnapper who was murdered by a fellow inmate at Big Muddy River Correctional Center.
Gerald Donaldson, 64, died after being attacked last week, as he and several other inmates were being marched to the commissary building. Donaldson and another inmate began fighting in front of the building, said Dede Short, Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman.
Officers immediately broke up the fight, she said, but Donaldson suffered life-threatening injuries and was taken to Crossroads Community Hospital in Mt. Vernon. He later was taken to St. Louis University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:45 p.m.
Donaldson had been serving a 20-year sentence for aggravated criminal sexual assault stemming from his molestation of six children. His death was ruled a homicide, the first such death at the facility of about 1,900 inmates.
Short said ample staffing was on hand at the time of the incident. ..Source.. by Corrections.com
Jury may receive inmate's case on Friday
MT. VERNON — Kenneth Scott took the stand in his own defense today, and the jury is expected to begin deliberations Friday to decide if he committed involuntary manslaughter for his part in the death of fellow Big Muddy River Correctional Center inmate Gerald Donaldson.
“I was looking in his eyes first, to see how far he was willing to go,” Scott said. “I looked at his hand, looked in his eyes. ... Once I said there ain’t nothing to talk about it was like a switch was flipped and he started getting more and more aggressive. ... He kept saying, go ahead and fight, I have nothing to lose.”
Scott is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Donaldson on March 2, 2006, while both were inmates of Big Muddy River Correctional Center in Ina. According to previous testimony in the case, the incident happened while inmates were being moved from a housing unit to the inmate commissary, when Scott picked Donaldson up and threw him down, resulting in fatal injuries to Donaldson when he landed on his head on concrete.
Scott has maintained from the time of the incident that he was trying to protect himself from being stabbed by a pencil Donaldson had in his hand. Thursday, Maj. Richard Harrington, who was the deputy commander of investigations for the Illinois Department of Corrections for the southern region at the time of the incident, admitted part of his testimony to the grand jury on the case was inaccurate. When asked if he told the grand jury that Scott only mentioned self-defense after learning Donaldson had died, Harrington admitted that he did, although a video of the interview he conducted with Scott the day after the incident showed that Scott said he was trying to keep Donaldson from stabbing him with a pencil several times from the beginning of the interview.
“It was my first grand jury and the fact that due to the case load and health issues at the time, I didn’t have time to review the video,” Harrington said. Special Prosecutor Michael Vujovich questioned Harrington on whether the video of the interview he conducted with Scott was shown to the grand jury, and found out it was not shown. In addition, Harrington admitted he was wrong in his testimony to the grand jury regarding the pencil that Donaldson had in his hand at the time of the incident, stating that when he testified about what the pencil looked like, he had not actually seen the pencil.
Information about Donaldson was also revealed during the defense on Thursday. Donaldson was a known White Supremacist, and was in BMRCC after being convicted of aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping. Due to previous rulings in the case, the jury did not hear about manslaughter and deviant sexual assault charges against Donaldson, but defense attorneys reserved the ability to bring the issue of the ruling up on appeal, if necessary.
Another issue which was presented during defense testimony was that although pencils aren’t contraband at BMRCC, inmates are not allowed to carry pencils outside their housing units unless they are going to school. Previous testimony from correctional officers had indicated inmates are allowed to have pencils.
Testimony from Levi Dixon, who was an inmate at BMRCC at the time of the incident, and who was in the group being taken to the commissary, revealed the information while telling about the verbal argument that led up to Donaldson’s death.
“We’re not allowed to take pans or pencils to the commissary,” Dixon said. “We have to fill out the (commissary) slip in the unit. We’re not allowed to take a pen or pencil anywhere unless you are going to school.”
Dixon’s claim was collaborated by other inmates that testified on Thursday. Also during the inmate testimony, the inmates all claimed officers who investigated the incident wrote statements of the inmates, asked for signatures of the statements, but did not give the inmates the option to read the written statements before signing them.
Scott testified that on the way to the staging area outside the housing unit on the day of the incident, several inmates were making comments about how some were rushing to the doors to get in line to go to the commissary.
“I couldn’t pinpoint exactly who was saying, there were lots of people talking,” Scott said. “I just turned around and to the general area, said, ‘just don’t put your hands on me.’ ... We’re in a prison, you don’t know what’s going to go on. A lot of stuff was said, some of it not directly to me. The way it was sounding, it could lead to something else, that’s why I said what I said. ... I was done. I communicated what I felt and that was it.”
Scott said when Donaldson started egging on a fight, he tried to tell him he wasn’t interested.
“I told him he was too old, that we didn’t have nothing to talk about,” Scott said. “I don’t know if me telling him he was old, he got offended or what. ... I stopped talking to him and started talking to someone else. ... I turned away from him. ... All the while we was walking, he’s threatening. ... I know he has the pencil in his hand. We’re in a prison. You don’t just threaten people. ... I grabbed him and tossed him to get him away from me.”
Scott said when he grabbed Donaldson, he did it in “one motion, one fluid motion.”
“I grabbed the back part of his arm and swung him around so he wouldn’t have leverage to stab me that bad,” Scott said. “I spun him away from me so his right hand would have to travel further to hit me.”
Scott contends he didn’t lift Donaldson over his head, but that he “elevated him a little bit.”
“Nobody in their right mind would let me balance him in the air without struggling,” Scott said.
Scott said he didn’t intend for Donaldson to land on the concrete.
“I just didn’t want him to hurt me,” Scott said. “I just wanted to keep him from hurting me.”
Closing arguments by the attorneys will be conducted this morning, and the case given over to the jury for deliberations today. ..Source.. by TESA CULLI
Inmate found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter
MT. VERNON — After just under an hour of deliberations, a jury found former Big Muddy River Correctional Center inmate Kenneth Scott not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
After the verdict, Scott exchanged hugs with his defense attorneys, Sean Featherstun and T.J. Parish, thanking them for their work. Moments later, standing back to allow the attorneys to gather their belongings, he lowered his head, and appeared to be trying to control his emotions before leaving the courtroom.
The trial was in response to an incident that happened on March 2, 2006, at Big Muddy River Correctional Center in Ina in which Gerald Donaldson, another inmate at the facility, died after Scott picked him up and threw him to the ground, landing on his head on a concrete sidewalk.
Scott has maintained from seconds after the incident that he was trying to protect himself from being stabbed by Donaldson, who had a pencil in his hand and had been threatening and trying to pick a fight with him. During closing arguments in the case on Friday, Featherstun told the jury that since the incident, Scott has remained consistent that he was trying to prevent Donaldson from stabbing him.
“This is a prison. It’s full of dangerous people. ... There are no idle threats in prison,” Featherstun said, speaking about the acts that took place and the setting. He continued by describing Donaldson, who was 64 years old at the time of his death, weighing approximately 174 pounds, and reminding the jury Donaldson had committed crimes of aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping.
“This isn’t grandpa,” Featherstun said. “Despite his height and his age, this is a dangerous man. We’ve all heard the testimony. The more Mr. Scott tried to get out of the situation, the more Donaldson went at him, the more important, puffed up, he became.”
Special prosecutor Mike Vujovich said the case was “difficult.”
“The truth is difficult to find in this case,” Vujovich told the jury. After the verdict was returned, Vujovich said the case was not an easy one for the prosecution.
“It was a difficult case,” Vujovich admitted. “We respect the jury’s decision.”
Scott, who is serving an armed robbery sentence, was remanded into the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, and the judgment of not guilty entered into the record. At this time, Scott, who is a native of Chicago, is being held at Pontiac Correctional Center and is eligible for parole in 2015. ..Source.. by TESA CULLI