An Allegany County jury has convicted an inmate at Western Correctional Institution in the fatal beating of his cellmate.
Corgiss Ross, 45, was found guilty in the November 2012 murder of Malcolm Jerrod "Rod" Pridget, a prosecutor said Monday. Pridget was taken from the maximum-security Cumberland prison to a local hospital and then to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he died of his injuries.
Pridget, 19, was serving concurrent 18-month sentences on a drug conviction and probation violation. The sentence was extended a year after Pridget was caught with contraband in his cell.
Erich M. Bean, an Allegany County prosecutor, said in an interview that blood evidence tied Ross to Pridget's death and that investigators were able to document who went into Pridget's cell. The verdict was issued Friday.
The case was prosecuted by an assistant state's attorney from Anne Arundel County, who volunteered to take it to gain experience, but Bean had reviewed the evidence and been briefed on the verdict.
Ross, a registered sex offender who was sentenced to 10 years for a 2011 armed robbery, repeatedly rejected the assistance of a public defender, Bean said. He went to trial without an attorney and did not mount a defense.
"He never spoke a single word," Bean said.
Pridget's mother, Phyllis Scott, said she was not satisfied with the outcome and that the trial left her with many unanswered questions.
Scott said the extent of her son's injuries made her believe that the attack could not have been committed by one person. "It would take him to fall off a cliff for all the bruises," she said.
"You cannot choke a person and beat on a person at the same time," Scott said. "You can't do it."
Pridget's death came during a spike in homicides inside Maryland's prisons, where seven inmates were killed between late 2012 and early 2013. The deaths stood out against a general decline in prison violence in recent years.
Corrections officials say they that while they have made strides in identifying gang members, helping to reduce planned violence, in many of the recent cases the prisoner's cellmate was the primary suspect. Preventing such attacks — which are often motivated by blind rage rather than any calculation — is difficult despite security measures, they say.
But while it might be difficult to stop the fatal attacks, Bean said, prosecutors are often able to make a compelling case at trial because inmates' movements are tracked and many areas of the facilities have video surveillance.
For example, at North Branch Correctional Institution, which is also in Allegany County, Bean said that "most everywhere" in the prison is being watched. The only exception is the cells, he said, though investigators are able to identify everyone who enters and leaves a particular area.
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