Florida Prisons Head To Stand Trial In Wrongful Death Lawsuit

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The head of Florida's prisons will stand trial in civil court for wrongful death allegations brought by the family of an inmate who died after a confrontation with guards. 

Corrections Secretary James Crosby, and the guards accused of fatally beating Frank Valdes on death row at
Florida State Prison in Starke, have been sued Valdes' family and face a civil trial in Jacksonville. 

The guards were acquitted in 2002 of murdering Valdes. Many of the guards have said they will use their Fifth
Amendment rights to not testify in the civil trial because of an ongoing Justice Department investigation. 

Crosby was warden at the Starke prison in 1999 when Valdes was killed. Crosby was promoted to head all Florida prisons in 2003 by Gov. Jeb Bush. 

Crosby has testified that he did whatever he could to minimize abuse to prisoners. But on including Crosby in the trial, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan said the family's attorney had shown enough evidence that would permit a jury to decide whether Crosby was warned that some guards were abusing prisoners, including Valdes. 

Crosby's lawyer, Kevin Blazs, could not be reached for comment on Friday by The Associated Press, but he told The Florida Times-Union earlier that he was surprised by the judge's decision. 

Stuart Address, an attorney for the Valdes family, applauded the inclusion. 

"We believed all along that the warden had knowledge that he had renegade officers on his staff," said Address. 

Corrigan did not set a date for the Jacksonville trial, instead ordering the two sides to start settlement negotiations, overseen by another judge. 

The judge removed two Florida State Prison supervisors and two nurses from the case. He said none could have known what would happen to Valdes. 

Previous Stories: 

  • February 21, 2002: Valdes Widow To File Civil Suit 
  • February 19, 2002: Valdes Case Prosecutors Given Time Off 
  • February 15, 2002: Jury Acquits Guards In Valdes Case 
  • January 30, 2002: Star Witness: Guard Captain Shocked Inmate 
  • January 18, 2002: Medical Examiner Testifies In Inmate Death Trial 
  • January 16, 2002: Opening Statements Begin In Prisoner-Death Trial 

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