Less than 24 hours after the July 2006 fatal stabbing of a corrections officer at the now-closed Maryland House of Correction, dozens of officers from other prisons were asked to help strip search and transport about 50 of the Jessup facility's most dangerous inmates.
One of the inmates was unruly, defense attorneys for five corrections officers said yesterday. Brandon Matthews kicked at an officer's groin, then went limp and refused to leave his cell. After being carried to a prison chapel to be searched, he fought with officers. To restrain him, they responded with force.
"When ... law enforcement officers kiss their loved ones goodbye, they enter into a dangerous atmosphere, among the most dangerous people we have," said Paul R. Kramer, one of the attorneys representing five corrections officers jointly facing charges of second-degree assault in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. "These men were doing their job and hoping to get home safely to their families."
Prosecutors allege that the officers -- Naron Dyer Sr., 28, Antoine Fordham, 22, Berkeley Ghee, 32, Keith Randolph, 35, and Manuel Williams, 36 -- were unnerved by a gang-related wristband that Matthews refused to remove and beat him excessively to "teach him a lesson and show him who's boss."
Assistant State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess told the jury that a homemade knife, once suspected as the murder weapon used to kill Officer David W. McGuinn, was planted on Matthews. Officers sought to justify his injuries, which she said were far too severe to match up with the officers' account. He suffered cuts, bruises and significant hearing loss in one ear.
"If someone looks that bad, there's going to have to be an explanation," Leitess said.
At its core, defense attorneys say, the case is a simple second-degree assault trial in which the jury must decide whether the officers exceeded their authority. Department of Corrections policies allow for the officers -- who do not carry guns or batons -- to use a degree of reasonable force.
But the allegations have been complicated by the tumultuous events surrounding McGuinn's killing on July 25, 2006. The shank that would allegedly be found on Matthews had first been discovered a few hours after the fatal stabbing near where McGuinn was killed. It disappeared within the prison after an investigator accidentally kicked it off a fourth-floor catwalk.
Capt. Tyrone Cobbs testified yesterday that he located it the next day and handed it to Capt. Edward Tames, who was in the prison chapel, where inmates were being strip searched.
That's where the officers say Matthews again became disruptive. Some say they saw him reach into his waistband for a weapon, and they said he took a swing at one of them.
Leitess said the officers kicked, stomped and punched Matthews and did not file a report of the incident until the next day, when the knife turned up in an evidence locker as a weapon taken from Matthews. She said the knife could not have been in his possession since it had already been documented on the catwalk as a weapon possibly used to kill Mc- Guinn.
Defense attorneys called the prosecution's version of the events a "conspiracy" theory.
Attorneys said that since the incident the officers have either been promoted or been honored for their work. Williams was promoted to captain, and Rosenberg said Fordham was recognized as an officer of the year for 2006, the same year of the incident.