Marcia Powell Cage Death: County Attorney Releases ADC PowerPoint, Internal ADC Investigation Not Reviewed by CA

Marcia Powell, whose death remains unavenged

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office did not review a 3,000 page internal Arizona Department of Corrections investigation into the 2009 cage death of Perryville Prison inmate Marcia Powell.

The County Attorney's office last week declined to prosecute anyone involved in Powell's heat-related death. The ADC had asked for charges of negligent homicide to be brought against seven corrections officers on duty May 19, 2009, the day Powell was kept in an outside enclosure for four hours in 107 degree heat.

Powell collapsed and was never revived. She later died at West Valley Hospital in the early morning hours of May 20, after ADC director Charles Ryan authorized doctors to suspend life support.

A 3,000 page internal investigation released by ADC last year revealed accounts by inmates that Powell was never given water and that she was mocked or ignored by ADC staff when she asked for water, to go to the bathroom, or to be taken back inside.

Though corrections officers maintained that Powell had been given water, her desiccated corpse argued otherwise. She had been kept outside in the blazing Arizona sun hours past the department's own two-hour cutoff for such en plein air detention. Also, her body was covered in excrement, as she soiled herself while in the enclosure.

But according to ADC spokesman Barrett Marson, the County Attorney's office never reviewed the 3,000 page report released last year. Instead, the CA received a copy of ADC's separate, criminal investigation, which Marson characterized as "even more voluminous."

Based on that criminal investigation, the CA's office concluded that there was "insufficient evidence" to go forward with a prosecution.

Why didn't the CA get to see the internal investigation, which was made public and reported on by several news outlets? This has to do with something called "the Garrity rule," based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision Garrity vs. New Jersey.

According to the Garrity rule, law enforcement officers can be compelled to answer certain questions by their employers, but those statements cannot be used against a LEO in criminal proceedings.

The CA's office is currently preparing the criminal case file for release. In the meantime, they have released a PowerPoint presentation given by ADC staff to the CA's office. You can see a copy of it, here. (Warning, it contains some blurry photos of Powell's corpse.)

"That was like reading the Reader's Digest condensed version of things," said prison reform advocate Donna Hamm after reviewing the document. "Clearly they left out a lot of relevant, very important stuff, like the fact that she had soiled herself a couple of times. It was a cleaned-up condensed version."

Nevertheless, the PowerPoint is damning. It notes that some officers were aware that the mentally ill Powell was on psychotropic drugs that could cause "an elevation of the body temperature." 

And you would think that staff psychologist Dr. Susan Kaz, the person who (according to the PowerPoint) directed the c.o.'s to move Powell from her cell to the outside enclosure, would have been aware of this as well.

When Powell's body was examined by the county coroner, it was found to have a core body temperature of 108 degrees Fahrenheit. It may have been higher, as medical thermometers only go as far as 108 degrees.

Corrections officers provided conflicting statements according to the PowerPoint. They didn't keep proper logs and notes. And some displayed callous indifference to Powell's suffering.

When officers discovered that Powell had collapsed, one asked officer Esmeralda Pegues, who was stationed nearby the enclosure, how long Powell had been on the ground.

"Officer Pegues replied with words to the effect of, `several minutes,'" the PowerPoint states.

Pegues was one of the seven officers the ADC requested felony charges on. The others were Evan Hazelton, Iain Fenyves, Electra Allen, Cortez Agnew, Anita Macias and Ariana Mena.

Hamm told me that she doesn't believe that conflicting statements from the c.o.'s should be enough to stop a prosecution.

"In any big crime, there are conflicting witnesses," she argued. "That shouldn't scare off the county attorney." 

The CA's decision on this matter is disappointing. I'm left to wonder if things might have been different if Powell had next-of-kin willing to push for indictments on her behalf. 

Indeed, there's no one around to even sue. Her aged, estranged adoptive mother, who lives in California, reportedly wanted nothing to do with Powell's case.

More than 16 ADC employees were ultimately fired or disciplined in the fallout from the Powell incident, but that's hardly justice. Powell's death deserves more. 

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
Julie Phillips
Julie Phillips

Hello. I was an eye witness to the death of Marsha Powell.  My husband and I composed this beautiful song, about that tragic event. We do all the music and the video. I hope someone can take the time to listen.  Thank you, Julie  


I want you to know, Anything unjustly should certainly go punished. My mother has been with the corrections for ten years with respect and hard work under her belt while at Lumley. She is a wonderful women and absolutely heart broken that anyone can ASSUME she is or the fellow prosecuted Correction officers who work with her are MURDERERS. I find it absolutely appalling that anyone could make an ASSUMPTION of guilt upon any person not knowing who they are and feeding into the speculated media fed upon this investigation. Im in no way biased as the results being fed. Im disappointed. Indeed a very sad story. Certainly something went wrong that day. Let me be blunt (as blunt as the women who raised me), She has devoted her life to this career and has taken pride in this Facility and the people who have let her down. When you are accused of something not knowing the outcome, under such biased fed judgement..please understand the fear... and devotion that falters when A department fails its employees. These Correction Officers were doing their job. Blame the way the system is run all you want but don't blame the workers for doing the SYSTEMS job. Corrections let my mother down. Conflicting statements? are you serious???? Perhaps because most of the Officers involved were simply at fault because they so happen to work that day at the wrong time..wrong place...and horrible circumstance. And by the way..She was alive when my mother left. Prosecute that? for simply following the work policy, while on suicide watch she was offered her the last glass of water. She said "no". do your research.In regards to Powell. She was a good immate from what i was told. just suicidal. I can only hope she found her peace, where the flowers are always in bloom and the sky in always blue.

Peggy Plews
Peggy Plews

The Arizona State Personnel Board office is located at 1400 W. Washington St., Suite 280 Phoenix, AZ 85007-2939. As I posted previously, at their June meeting, with no discussion, on a motion from Joseph Smith, they reinstated Electra Allen to her previous position at Perryville, despite the ADC's decision to terminate her and their recommendation that she be criminally prosecuted. To their credit, they did not reinstate Iain Fenyves; Joseph Smith was the only member who didn't agree, however. He seems to be far more sympathetic to ADC employees than to the woman they killed.

Here is the additional contact information: I'm sure they will be hearing more ADC employee appeals. Before their September meeting, perhaps they should hear from Friends of Marcia Powell's and others in the community who are disturbed by these developments.

Phone: (602) 542-3888Fax: (602) 542-3588Email: (executive director)

Additionally, it's my understanding that negligent homicide isn't just a crime in Maricopa County - it's a state and federal crime. If Romley (602-506-3411) won't make his people take responsibility, then we should pressure Goddard to. The Attorney General's office is at 1275 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007 (602-542-5025). Make it clear that we expect leadership from him on getting justice for Marcia, be it in a courtroom or otherwise.

I looked into Arizona's victim's rights laws to see if the public can ever be considered a secondary victim of violence done by public employees in their official capacity. Apparently, under the Arizona Constitution, a person who is "in custody for an offense" is not considered a "victim" themselves, regardless of their vulnerability to neglect or abuse or the heinousness of the crime perpetrated against them. No wonder the perpetrators aren't treated as criminals.

In light of the horrendous abuses in our prisons and jails here, I have a real problem with people having no rights when victimized in custody, and plan to make it an issue while lobbying for "Marcia's Law", beginning tomorrow.

Finally, Donna Hamm's reference to getting the Justice Department to investigate is regarding the Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). It takes years for them to get around to it; the more people who complain to them about abuses in the state prisons and our county jails, the better. They need to see a pattern of abuse, not just a single incident.

I periodically forward them packets to establish such patterns, as I suspect Middle Ground does. You can send them local news articles about prisoner abuse and neglect every time you find them, too, beginning now. An expression of public outrage directed to them, not just the blogs, would help, too. Get them familiar with the name of Marcia Powell.

US Department of JusticeCivil Rights DivisionSpecial Litigation Section950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHBWashington, D.C. 20530

Telephone Number(202) 514-0195toll-free at (877) 218-5228

Fax Numbers(202) 514-0212; (202) 514-6273

Acting Chief: Judy Preston(202) 514-6258

Thank you.


Roafer, Ms. Powell died while in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections. The Sheriff had nothing to do with the conditions of her confinement. The MCSO and the ADOC are separate and unrelated agencies. The Sheriff may have exploited a political culture in which the human rights of the incarcerated and imprisoned are ignored, but he had no direct involvement in her death.


Thats truly fucked up. Now the AZ Attorney General should get involved, or the feds. Thats bullshit.


The Feds should arrest Sheriff Joe right NOW!!No one should ever be treated in this manner while incarcerated, it is absolutely incredible that Sheriff Joe is still a free man.This is institutional manslaughter, pretty simple really. Why has no one been arrested for her death?

Because America is becoming a more fascist police state every day.


Your mother is a liar! She along with officer Mena, Agnew and Allen betrayed and testified against Officer Fenyves who by the way is the only officer still terminated but fighting for his job!


Want the real story about Marcia Powell and the Staff at Lumley? Contact an Officer that was there! Can you say that? Truth is just that regardless what sensational stories are told about Powell's last moments by those who were not there and never talked to front line staff ! 

Another Concerned Citizen
Another Concerned Citizen

You know it's interesting that if someone is in custody that they have no rights and cannot be considered a victim, because if they do something while incarcerated, they can certainly get new charges and be tried for additional crimes while in custody!

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Ms. Plews, Thank you for the contact information. The public needs to know where to turn on this horrific outcome.

Plews:"In light of the horrendous abuses in our prisons and jails here, I have a real problem with people having no rights when victimized in custody, and plan to make it an issue while lobbying for "Marcia's Law", beginning tomorrow." Let us know more as "Marcia's Law" develops. We support your efforts! On Monday, another female inmates died at Perryville Prison. Who will be next?

concerned citizen
concerned citizen

Lars, You are right about Marcia Powell being in custody with the DOC. Arizona wardens were sent to Abu Ghraib to set up their prisons -- the 2004 torture scandal rings true here in Arizona for women in America in the 21st century! The culture of cruelty and inhumanity under Sheriff Arpaio for over 17 years permeates law enforcment, the laws and the mass incarceration of Arizona's people, so in a way roafer is right -- this IS the public perception. This is how the sheriff operates except we don't know if each are trying to outdo one another about who has the better torture gulags. Either way it is immoral and unethical and it's time the elected officials put a stop to this inhumanity towards women. Thank you Mr. Lemons for writing what no others dare write about and still keep their jobs!


I didn't say Sheriff Joe had a hand in her death directly. But his influence regarding how this woman and others are treated while incarcerated is well known. You even stated that fact.Again, this scumbag Sheriff needs to go down in flames, the Feds should arrest him ASAP before more people die in his custody.

Now Trending

From the Vault