Marcia Powell's Death Unavenged: County Attorney Passes on Prosecuting Prison Staff

Sadly, Marcia Powell may never get justice

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office has chosen not to prosecute Arizona Department of Corrections staff in the death of inmate Marcia Powell.

Powell, 48, died May 20, 2009, after being kept in a human cage in Goodyear's Perryville Prison for at least four hours in the blazing Arizona sun. This, despite a prison policy limiting such outside confinement to a maximum of two hours.

The county medical examiner found the cause of death to be due to complications from heat exposure. Her core body temperature upon examination was 108 degrees Fahrenheit. She suffered burns and blisters all over her body.

Witnesses say she was repeatedly denied water by corrections officers, though the c.o.'s deny this. The weather the day she collapsed from the heat (May 19 -- she died in the early morning hours of May 20) arched just above a 107 degree high.

According to a 3,000 page report released by the ADC, she pleaded to be taken back inside, but was ignored. Similarly, she was not allowed to use the restroom. When she was found unconscious, her body was covered with excrement from soiling herself.

Powell, who was serving a 27-month sentence for prostitution, actually expired after being transported to West Valley Hospital, where acting ADC Director Charles Ryan made the decision to have her life support suspended.

(Ryan lacked the authority to do this, but that's another story, which you can read about, here.)

ADC conducted its own criminal investigation into Powell's agonizing demise. The information I have indicates that ADC submitted its conclusions to the county attorney earlier this year. (Please see update below.) ADC was seeking charges of negligent homicide against at least seven c.o.'s, as well as related charges against other prison staff.

Why didn't the county attorney's office pursue those charges? Apparently, they didn't think they could prevail in court.

County attorney spokesman Bill Fitzgerald issued the following terse statement.

"There is insufficient evidence to go forward with a prosecution against any of the named individuals," he e-mailed me, declining to elaborate further. 

Donna Hamm of the advocacy group Middle Ground Prison Reform wasn't buying it.

"Having read the bulk of those 3,000 pages of reports," she told me, "if someone in a prosecutorial position can't find a crime in those pages, they have absolutely no credibility in my opinion."

Hamm noted that guards passed Powell several times throughout her stay in the cage, and that some mocked her pleas for water. As for c.o. claims that Powell was given water, Hamm countered that Powell's eyes "were as dry as parchment," and that the autopsy results show there was no sign of hydration.

Hamm was incredulous that the county attorney couldn't find enough evidence to bring charges.

"It's just beyond comprehension," she stated. "This is the same office that has prosecuted mothers who left their babies in a couple of inches of water to go outside and take a cell phone call or look in the mail." 

She also cited the case of "Buffalo Soldier" Charles Long, who was prosecuted by the MCAO for negligent homicide in the 2001 death of a kid who had enrolled in his program for troubled teens and died after being exposed to the heat and put in a bath, where he inhaled water.

The ADC did make some reforms in the wake of Powell's death. It was discovered that the cages were being used to control unruly prisoners, and the ADC claims this practice has stopped. However, Hamm says she has uncovered a case of a man in a Tucson facility who, earlier this year, was held all day and overnight in an outside cage.

Some 16 prison employees were sanctioned in one way or another as a result of the Powell incident, and some were fired. But Hamm says she believes some of those sanctioned have been reinstated.

The outdoor cages are still in use, but have been retrofitted to provide shade, misters, water stations, and benches, which, ironically, Hamm says are metal, and would thus soak up the heat. She's toured ADC facilities to see the redone cages, and admits that changes are positive, but too late to save Powell's life, obviously.

"All the retrofitting in the world is worthless if the staff doesn't follow the policy," she insisted.

Powell had been diagnosed as mentally ill, and was on more than one psychotropic drug, drugs that increased her sensitivity to heat, sunlight and lack of water. All the more reason, according to Hamm, that prison staff should be held accountable.

The only next of kin that was located for Powell was an aged, adoptive mother in California, who had not had contact with Powell for years, and did not want to take possession of the remains.

So, with the help of Hamm and others, Powell's ashes were interred last year at Phoenix's Shadow Rock Church of Christ.

Brophy College Preparatory School also dedicated a plaque to Powell on school grounds this year.

But with no one with standing to bring a federal lawsuit (Hamm says the deadline for a state lawsuit has expired), and with the MCAO unwilling to bring a case against those responsible for Powell's well-being, there looks to be no justice for the schizophrenic deceased woman.

I asked Hamm what this means for the case.

"It means they've gotten away with the most colossal example of brutality I have seen against a female prisoner in the history of the Arizona Department of Corrections," remarked Hamm, adding, "And they got off scot-free."

Update, 9/1/10 2:29 PM: ADC spokesman Barrett Marson told me today that the ADC submitted its criminal investigation to the MCAO back on August 20, 2009. He said he did not know if the ADC asked for charges on certain employees.

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194 comments
jmj2400
jmj2400

Joseph M. Jason-No excuse for this cruel and unusual punishment resulting in death.

DodgyMerchant
DodgyMerchant

Barbaric scum. 

I thought the days of torturing someone to death died with the Inquisition. 

Foer a state heavily funded by divorce, gambling and prostitution, tell me. How is the moral high ground you think you are standing on?

rejco
rejco

That poor woman, cooked to death by the People of Arizona.....PURE EVIL!

Julie Acklin
Julie Acklin

Remembering Marsha Powell.rest in peace my friend.Az prisons torture abuse and death.

rejco
rejco

I don't feel sorry for one of those people wiped-out by that crazy kids in Phoenix...

rejco
rejco

The horrifying crime committed against Marcia Powell by the citizens of Arizona is beyond belief! 

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Mademoiselle B.
Mademoiselle B.

Wow that is absolutely outrageous. And heartbreaking. I don't know how these people even bare to look at themselves in the mirror.

The American prison system is a truly sick and inhumane one. The failure to prosecute the guards responsible for her death is confirmation that this is true.

mother of a prisoner
mother of a prisoner

Stories like this make my stomach churn.  To think in the world we live in today still allows this type of torture is inhumane.  Hence, the song,"  let's burn the prison's to the ground..."  I think as long as CO's are allowed to do these things, without any type of consequence will destroy our credibility throughout the entire prison systems in the various states.  Actually, this is a good thing, while people sit and mock prisoners, and think they have TV, rec rooms, and the like, this is what ACTUALLY happens in prisons.  The people in there, even though some are monsters, still should be treated with dignity.  After all, isn't it a CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION?  There is no correction taking place, just more horrid stories like this one.  Some people, as the one aforementioned, did not deserve any type of punishment.  She was mentally ill and sold her body, so what?  She needed help, can't anyone see this side?  Keep reporting and get let the world know of these happenings.  Let's let rules be upheld, and take away the powers of the real monsters, the CO's.  You only need a GED to become a correctional officer.  Let some people watch over these people to see that they are doing what they are supposed to, and not go along with them for the ride and pleasure of seeing the torture.  I don't know the answers, but I know the prison system is all about making money and not correcting wrongs people do in society.  Help the prisoners to be treated as humans, I am not asking for a five star motel, just human decency.  Perhaps they will be treated good for the first time in their lives.  We cannot judge all prisoners, but the likes of the " Charles Manson's " of the world.  Don't stop trying to get the word out.  People need to know what really happens insides these walls, from two viewpoints, the co's and the prisoners.  No, I do not feel sorry for those that hurt others. I just feel the word needs to be out there.

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Hall5
Hall5

I can't believe that prisoners are treated like this! I mean, do the corrections officers think the prisoners are in there to be punished or something? You people make me sick! You're probably the same people that voted for ignorant Obama, a president who would love to take every dime from us hard working Americans and give it to the delinquents and have-nots (and most are have-nots because they figured out that they can be have-nots and be lazy as hell and the government will support them). I get up bright and early every morning and spend my morning at school, then go straight to work from there and bust my ass for 10 hours a day...just so the gov't can just about rob me blind every pay check and then dish it out to the lazy welfare people and the pieces of shit in prisons who CHOSE to be delinquents of society. I have a hard time feeling sorry for anyone in these circumstances.

ashley
ashley

Take it from someone who was there and knows marsha its a tragedy that they didnt have her where she could get the help and treatment she needed and shame on the staff for ignoring a womens pleas for water,a women on severe mental prescription drugs and the staff knows this especially in lockdown where the meds are delivered to your door with an officer!

Rachelperry Scotland
Rachelperry Scotland

The sad thing is, stories like this don't even surprise people outside the US any more. We've seen how the US behaved in places like Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Base, and Guantanamo Bay, any see a pattern; are you guys *really* that surprised that the human rights abuses that you as a society are so clearly and prevalently guilty of don't stop at your own borders, and are also perpetrated against you own citizens?

I live in Scotland, have worked in the Police service here, and I need to tell you that, for a long time now, myself and my former colleagues have had a view that none of us will even entertain any form of co-operation with the US authorities. Sure, we need to humour you to a degree as much as basic diplomacy dictates, but, for the most part, requests for judicial co-operation and the like are just simply ignored, because we know things like this go on. That's why no-one from the Scottish government entertained any enquiries from US Senators about the release of the Lockerbie Bomber: we couldn't care less what you think about our judicial system, since your own is such an appalling mix of human rights abuses and petty vindictiveness dressed up as law and order. Until you prove that you can start acting like human beings, that's the way we'll continue to view and treat you: with utter disdain.

Rachel,Scotland, UK.

Smitty
Smitty

It should also be noted that the Warden (Threses Schroeder) at the time of the Powell tragedy was permitted to retire, the was rewarded with an ASRS position (double dipping within ADC) as the Security Operationa Administrator. Schroeder was not punished even though as the Warden of a complex it was her direct responsibility for the safety of staff and the safety of the inmates you are charged with incarcerating. Her appointment into the position , like allowing her to retire and fill a position that had remeined unfilled due to budget constraints for several months was filled in order for Ryan to re-hire his Iraq buddy and former Inspector General Greg Lochner (IG under Schriro) because Lochner was out of a job and Ryan could move the present IG to Perryville as the Warden (Ryan also paid the Lochner $8,000 more annually than the previou IG ). Ryan is doing more harm than good, oh yeah, what about the most recent inmate murder at ASPC-Lewis ? Ryan and the Division Director for the prisons have thier head in the sand and are clueless to what is going on. Have thay found that missing special made AR15 Tactical weapon missing from the Safford prison ? That Warden was also never disciplined......

YOUYOUYOU
YOUYOUYOU

Arizona is shit and anyone who supports that state is shit and I hope you all die in the desert due to heat.

Whoswatchingthem
Whoswatchingthem

Report Dr Kaz to az medical board let them deal with her. YOU have to do an exam each time not just say this inmate does this or that. and take the hearsay from a C O. MALPRACTICE!!Lt Paccione is lying about asking""marcia do you want water" lying m f. never see lt. do this , the conversation more like" well have you decided to give up you suicide song?" fine sit here in the sun!!Need an attorney to file a civil case. take it out of state to investigate. the prisons are being run by nazi. investigate!!!!it was to save money didnt want transport man hours, didnt want to send her to perryville, and why do they have to send them to another prison???

Dump
Dump

Because, if unchecked, they potentially allow full expression of (er) proclivities, corrections jobs tend to draw psychopaths. Just look at the former prison guard that got us into such serious trouble at Abu Graib.

Other than a rigid disciplinary structure, the only way to keep psychopaths in check is the real threat of serious consequences for psychopathic behavior. Just ask any law enforcement officer. Similarly, one of the major purposes of the military command structure is to keep any psychopaths under control.

Evil Wroark
Evil Wroark

I will probably burn in hell for what i am about to say, so Lord forgive me...

*coughsLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLZ!!!!

David Zemens
David Zemens

There really aren't words for how appalling this is.

JKU
JKU

The problem here is that there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against any specific individual - not that there isn't clear evidence of criminal behavior. Unfortunately this is common when an organization of this kind is collectively responsible for an atrocity like this.

Even though there may not be enough evidence to charge anyone, I think the policy should be that the whole agency be held accountable and *everyone* in it fired/replaced. That's the only way to ensure that members of an organization have a feeling of responsibility: they know they'll be held accountable for their co-workers' transgressions.

Oscar
Oscar

An ex-con wrote this and I will quote some of it in regards to the comments about being better off slowly torturing people to death in modern day brazen bulls - a method of execution similar to those used in the medieval europe your ancestors left behind - instead of rehabilitating criminals and I urge you to give it some thought:

The thing to ask yourself, if you're a Libertarian or a Conservative, or a proponent of the "deterrence" school of thought, or whatever school of thought that brings you to the "prison should be as unappealing as possible" type of deal- is what kind of man do you want to come out of prison. Most people who go into prison eventually come out, you know. And mostly we stay in our America. You know how rich guys with mansions go on TV and talk about "2 Americas," well they're right. And mostly we just stay in our America, and we never go into your America. But sometimes it happens, and I know you all try and prevent it, but it does happen. We do go to your America sometimes. So when it happens what kind of man do you want in there- in your America- with your flat screen and your nice car; your nice lawn, your nice computer; and your lily-white wife? For deterrence well, look at states with death penalty, and what the offense rates are up in there. If that's not why you think about prison conditions, then like I said, think about it from a position of self-interest: what kind of man do I want coming out, and possibly coming into my America.

Us Border guard
Us Border guard

Our entire justice system and prison system needs overhauling ASAP. How we as a society treat the mentally ill and drug addicts must also be re-evaluated.

ironhead77
ironhead77

After reading this, all I can say is unreal. MCSO has no problem putting together a prostitution charge against Powell, and essentially handing her a death sentence, yet can't put a case together to try these thugs for manslaughter? This is totally outrageous. I for one am emailing this story to local news outlets here in Portland, OR. Powell's story needs to reach as many people as possible. The swine at ADC, MCSO, etc, need to swing in the wind for this, because they are cold blooded killers.

Df3232
Df3232

There really should call in the federal attorneys and it's sickening to see this sort of thing happen and worst of all is the lack of justice. Look at Oscar Grant; despite the fact he pulled a gun to the back of a man's back and shot him without reason in front of multiple witnesses and video taped coverage, he is convicted of the weakest charge possible; he'll maybe serve a year in jail for a sentence any non-cop would get 25 years to life for. It's just sad and it's even worst here; the government should set up an independent department that is separate from the attorney generals offfice for the sole purpose of investigating government officials accused of crime. Ran by civilian members to further avoid the taint of corruption.

AEdwards
AEdwards

I am a visual artist in Phoenix and was extremely distressed and saddened by this incident. I have decided to honor her in an altar for day of the dead that will be shown at the Desert Botanical Gardens in October. It will not only deal with the tragedy of her life but awareness of mental illness and the many issues surrounding those who are alone wandering, finding themselves in and out a revolving institutional door.

Guest
Guest

Stop using Marcias death to support your open borders anti-Arizona anti-American agenda. It's sick.

Guest
Guest

"Given no water"............. And yet, the very leftist open borders scum that pretends to be concerned about human rights, and leaves water in the desert for illegal aliens, were no where in sight to give any water to Marcia. It seems they don't really care about Americans human rights.

Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate

How wonderful - I bet the sadistic assholes who effectively crucified this woman consider themselves to be "pro life".

Mbertel
Mbertel

The next Nightmare on Elm Street or Jason horror film should take place in Arizona. That state is truly scary.

NaziAZ2010
NaziAZ2010

should be noted , she was NOT unruly or disruptive she was put there awaiting transport.

Uppeopleforobama
Uppeopleforobama

This is sick and sadistic...how can fellow Americans help? This is a complete violation of human rights. Instead of just putting this poor woman to death they tortured her. We are beyond appalled. People that abuse animals get worse punishment. Our prayers go to Marcia Powell.

Kculliton1
Kculliton1

Where is the outrage in maricoba county ? How does this admimistration keep getting away with flaunting their corruption and cruelty . I can only guess that sheriff Joe has such a hold that everyone is in fear of him .Time to man up you should be marching in the streets .

Bezzer
Bezzer

Human nature is such that there will always be abuse of power. You give some people power over others and you run the risk of them seeking to torture or kill just for the feeling of control and power it gives them (not to mention the true psychopaths who gravitate towards these kinds of jobs). What is truly horrifying is the failure to bring these people to account. What is Arizona thinking of? I'm from the UK and I'm fully aware that our own criminal justice system is far from perfect but I would hope that we would have a successful prosecution where there was such a clear case of neglect. We have some shameful cases in our past where a lack of clear evidence or of witnesses prepared to tell the truth meant that justice was not achieved. But in this Arizona case the evidence is there and the witnesses are talking - why hasn't the justice system done its job? Unbelievable. Makes you want to avoid coming to the US in case you innocently fall into the hands of these kind of people.....

Roage
Roage

There are no accidents. The real question is why this woman was killed. She was silenced. What were the prison staffers covering up? I think it is curious that it extends to prosecutors who refuse to prosecute. They know something. With this kind of behavior why do they waste their time with prisoners in the first place? Why not simply kill them all? Who cares? they are just people with families. They have no value to those who are responsible for their protection. Why stop there, when the idiot "law enforcers" considers everyone a perpetrator, why not preemptively "remove" people on the street from becoming potential burdens in the penal system?. What a great lesson for sheep that look away at this criminals acting with impunity. They are next. This abomination is the act of filthy reprobates. They are incapable of shame.

Jasmine
Jasmine

Some confused Christians in that state.

Jesus would have given her water.

Elvis
Elvis

You know, Marcia Powell was convicted multiple times on not just prostitution, but on drug charges as well. As unfortunate as it was to leave this earth in that manner, perhaps we are better off without her.

When you're dealing with multiple offenders, you're usually looking at people who will never change from their ways. You can keep a convict in prison for 15 years, and within days of being released they've been caught doing the very thing that put them there in the first place. It's all too common in this country, and I feel that would be because we're too lenient with our felons.

Found convicted of ending another mans life? You should be shot in the face same day you're convicted. Prostitute? You should be disfigured. Aggravated assault? You deserve to be pummelled within an inch of your life, multiple times a day, for a month straight.

If we stop pussy-footing these convicts by housing them in privatized prisons with air conditioning and soft mattresses, cable television and recreational activities, we just might make a difference in their lives.

If a prisoner feels comfortable, we have failed them.

Living your life worry and responsibility free for an extended period of time sounds like anything other than punishment.

We, as a nation, desperately need to step up the punishments that we deal out. Average time on death row in the year 2000 was 143 months, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

That's a month shy of twelve years, in which time our prisons are spending literally billions of dollars on these convicts, all of which comes out of the pockets of the hardworking American citizens.

If you pay taxes, then you are certainly funding, right now, an inmate, who will never have a chance at parol, higher education than you have.

Last week, a convicted murderer on death row received his phD. He will never thank you for that, nor will he ever have a chance to make a difference in this world using the education that you've helped pay for.

ignatzfattis
ignatzfattis

I have not been to Arizona in a couple years, but after all the press it's been creating for itself lately, it's one of the last places I'd consider visiting and spending money -it sounds like it's becoming a real police State hell hole.

Ralph
Ralph

Oh no, we lost a real pillar of the community. How will we fill this void? Who will step up and become a crack-addled skank spreading disease via $5.00 hummers at bus stops??

kalamities
kalamities

@Hall5 Join an union so you get your well-deserved 8 hour days. 

RachelPerry
RachelPerry

^^^ Morons like this. That's why view you with disdain.

Tuffy
Tuffy

Yeah, I remember Paccione when he was a C.O II. , arrogant, cocky-fuck he was. I'm sure he didn't have one ounce of compassion for that inmate (or any other inmate for that matter) and I bet he even dragged his feet (or dropped the ball completely) in making the arrangements to get her transferred to CDU before the shift changed. I can't believe they made him an Lt!! Complacency and apathy are the two common attitudes at ADOC, which lead to negligence, and that is why Marcia Powell died.

KitKat
KitKat

Yeah, because civilians can totally just walk into a prison and give a mentally-ill woman in a cage water. Typical blustering right-wing idiot.

KitKat
KitKat

These people aren't Christians. They're just modern-day Pharisees who would kill Christ as readily as their ancient predecessors.

KitKat
KitKat

Also, since I'm sure you're a good, God-fearing Christian... These verses should be familiar. If not, well...

"But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

Maybe you should bear that in mind - the words of the very being you presume to call your Savior condemn you here.

KitKat
KitKat

Wow. Raging sociopath, much? People like you should be locked up for the sake of the people around them - never know when a psychopath is going to snap and throw acid in some random woman's face because he think she's a whore or something, after all.

On that note... I see that you advocate the murder of the mentally-ill, and the physical disfigurement of "sexually immoral" woman... I think I know a place that would suit you better than the USA - does the name "Afghanistan" ring any bells? I'm sure the Taliban would welcome you with open arms, seeing as how you think like them already. They would even give you a gun, knives, and maybe even access to some acid so you could disfigure as many "whores" as your sick little BSE-addled brain desired. I'm sure you'd feel RIGHT at home.

KitKat
KitKat

She was certainly worth more than you, you brainless piece of bridge-dwelling, goat-chasing filth.

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