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Hearing set June 15 on state's request to overturn $45,001 award to inmate


A federal judge has set a hearing for June 15 to consider the state's request that he overturn a $45,001 jury award to an inmate who alleged that he was assaulted by correctional officers.

At the hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett will consider the state's motions that he set aside the jury verdict, order a new trial or reduce the monetary damages that the federal jury in Baltimore awarded to Norman R. Willis, 37.

The jury, in a rare finding against the prison system, concluded in October that two Western Correctional Institution officers violated Willis' rights by assaulting him and slamming his head against the wall while he was handcuffed.

Jurors awarded Willis $1 in compensatory damages and $45,000 in punitive damages because of the incident.

Willis, who was moved to the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, had claimed that the WCI officers threatened and assaulted him and directed other inmates to fight him in retaliation for his written complaints against the officers.

He also claimed that he was told to assault another inmate in exchange for protection from a prison gang.

Lawyers for the state filed a motion seeking a new trial about two weeks after the jury's verdict, saying new evidence had surfaced suggesting Willis fabricated his accounts of abuse.

In court filings, Assistant Attorney General David P. Kennedy said that another WCI inmate told prison investigators that Willis lied.

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