Guards Smuggling Narcotics
Execution team officers' pasts revealed
By Claire Cooper
BEE LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER
The team leader for California's last eight executions once was fired for carrying illegal drugs into San Quentin State Prison.
The termination was converted into a five-month suspension without pay, though, and two wardens later approved the correctional officer for membership on the execution team.
Later chosen to lead the team -- again, by the warden -- the officer selected the other team members, a task that was carried out without consulting personnel files. Among the choices: two officers who had been convicted of driving while intoxicated.
Those disclosures and more, previously revealed only to a federal judge, became public Friday in response to a judge's order granting a motion by three news organizations, including The Bee. The execution team members' disciplinary information was part of a joint statement of "undisputed facts" agreed on by the California attorney general's office and lawyers for condemned killer Michael Morales.
The document was filed in court in preparation for a hearing later this month on whether the state's lethal injection process violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The version originally made public was heavily redacted.
In granting a motion to restore much of the redacted material, filed by The Bee, the Los Angles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, who will preside over the constitutional hearing, reiterated a previous ruling that execution team members could not be identified, even by pronouns denoting sex. But references to their backgrounds and qualifications had to be made public, Fogel ruled.
The new information could bear on what will be a major issue in the upcoming hearing: whether lethal injections are being administered competently.
In the restored material, the team leader who had brought illegal drugs into a prison was referred to as Witness No. 5. The two officers convicted of DUI are referred to as Witness No. 1 and Witness No. 13.
According to the joint prehearing statement, Witness No. 1 had a blood alcohol level of .12 when pulled over on a Sacramento County road in 1998. The conviction became part of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's disciplinary records.
Witness No. 1's pretrial deposition, which also was refiled Friday, said two other San Quentin officers were present at the DUI incident, and no injuries were involved. A guilty plea was entered in court.
The next year, Witness No. 1 joined the execution team and then participated in eight executions, rising to co-leader of the team, according to the joint statement.
That statement also reveals that Witness No. 1 was diagnosed as clinically depressed and was put on anti-depressant medication last January -- a month before becoming the sole team leader. But according to the deposition, that wasn't the first time. Witness No. 1 was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder as well as depression as early as 1995, as result of "my years of working in the prison system."
Among the executions Witness No. 1 participated in was that of Clarence Ray Allen last January, the state's most recent execution. Witness No. 1's duty was to observe the mixing of the sedative drug administered before two potentially painful lethal chemicals.
Whether condemned inmates have been properly sedated is one of the major issues in the upcoming constitutional hearing, and Allen's execution was one of six cited by Fogel in ordering an extensive examination of the lethal injection process. The condemned men in the six cases showed unexpected signs of possible breathing late in the execution process.
The unredacted deposition reveals that the other drunken driving conviction of an execution team member -- Witness No. 13 -- was in Alameda County.
"Neither (the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) nor Witness No. 1 took any action to preclude Witness No. 13's subsequent participation in the executions of Donald Beardslee, Stanley Williams, Clarence Allen and/or the scheduled Michael Morales execution" as a result, says the joint prehearing statement.
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Ex-guard admits guilt in prison drug case
SACRAMENTO -- A former state correctional officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to offering to sell controlled substances to a prisoner and to possessing a deadly weapon on prison grounds without authorization, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release.
Wallace Laffitte Jr. was tape-recorded while offering to sell methamphetamine and marijuana to an inmate at California State Prison, Sacramento, for $500. When arrested later by special agents in the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Internal Affairs Division, Laffitte had the money, which was marked, according to the release.
Laffitte, who had a 9-inch folding knife when arrested, admitted to selling methamphetamine and marijuana to inmates for almost a year to support his crack cocaine addiction, the release states.
Laffitte was fired from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
On Sept. 26, Laffitte will be sentenced to a stipulated three-year term in state prison, according to the release.
Prison Guard Suspected of Smuggling Narcotics
January 25, 2005
A correctional officer at Centinela State Prison has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to smuggle narcotics and cellphones to inmates.
Daniel Jones Jr. was arrested Jan. 15 following a six-month investigation, said Michael Capeci, an investigator with the Imperial County district attorney's office.
Jones and his girlfriend, Leslie Saldana, are suspected of being involved
in a conspiracy to smuggle marijuana, cocaine and phones into the prison.
They were released on bail pending a Feb. 18 arraignment.
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