Thirty-six hours after his admission into Florida’s Santa Rosa Correctional Institution, an inmate was brutally beaten into a coma by a fellow prisoner. Prior to his death, Ricky Martin pleaded with corrections officers to be moved to a new cell, out of fear for his life.
While serving a six-year prison sentence, Martin was killed by his cellmate on March 30, 2012. Guards found Martin with a smashed skull, numerous cuts and bruises, and linen wrapped around his neck. His shorts had also been pulled down. Shawn “Jiggaman” Rogers, who had a history of violent engagement with other prisoners, was behind the fatality. Witnesses overheard “screams and thuds,” and contend that Rogers jumped on Martin’s head multiple times. Evidence also suggests that Rogers hit Martin with a sock filled with batteries.
Audio and video recordings, as well as witness testimonies, confirmed that Martin repeatedly asked the corrections department’s inspector general for protection. Fearing for his life, at least four separate inmates begged officers John Beaudry and Jacob Denmon to assist Martin. Video taken during the incident shows Beaudry merely glanced into the cell, without going inside. Denmon allegedly ignored what was happening as well, and left the problem for corrections officers on the next shift.
When he was finally found by officer Dean Givens, Martin was handcuffed, placed in leg restraints, and taken to the hospital where he was pronounced brain-dead. Days later, he was taken off of life support. According to his widow this was done without her permission.
A thorough investigation into Beaudry and Denmon has not been launched.
The fatality calls into question why a notoriously violent inmate was initially placed in a cell with a fellow prisoner. In a letter to the judge presiding over his trial, Rogers said, “It’s no military secret that I have been one of the most vicious and violent prisoners in the entire state of Florida.” But Martin’s death also raises questions about why his pleas were ignored, in addition to other prisoners’ warnings that Martin was in danger. On the day of the killing, Rogers reportedly boasted that he wanted to kill a white inmate — news of the Trayvon Martin case had reached the prison, and many inmates were angry about what they had learned. Once he was in the same cell as Martin, who is white, Rogers yelled “who wants to see me kill this cracker?” according to several of his fellow inmates.
According to the Miami Herald, there’s also speculation that prison staff were behind the attack, in retaliation for Martin’s whistle-blowing. In 2011, Martin alerted officials at his former prison that guards were involved in a cafeteria flight club. The Herald notes that “[f]our months before his transfer, in November 2011, Martin had filed a grievance asking the department’s inspector general to place him under protection because his life was being threatened” after he was labeled a “snitch.”
Sadly, this is not the first case of a tragic death in a Florida prison. Randall Jordan-Aparo was gassed to death over a period of five hours in solitary confinement, after he repeatedly asked to be taken to the hospital. Another inmate, Latandra Ellington, was put in solitary after informing family members that her life was threatened. Within 24 hours of her aunt informing prison officials about the threats to Ellington’s life, the inmate was found dead. A private autopsy concluded that she died of blunt force trauma. In several other cases, prison guards claimed that they were punished for speaking out about prisoners’ treatment by guards.
Growing criticism of the state’s prison system has raised red flags in recent months. As of early December last year, 320 inmates died. In response to this uptick in inmate fatalities, the Department of Justice is looking into possible rights violations. On Monday, a Florida Senate committee also spearheaded a review of how inmate deaths are investigated and which agencies are responsible for conducting those investigations.