On television shows, it is not uncommon to see prison guards helping inmates do things they should not do. Hopefully, this is something that happens more on TV than in real life. However, there are cases where prison and jail guards help inmates smuggle drugs and other contraband into the prison and facilitate fights between inmates. There was also a well publicized case from New York a year or two ago where a prison guard helped some dangerous inmates escape a maximum security prison.
In a case near Jacksonville, Florida, a prison guard was charged with culpable negligence, official misconduct and accessory after the fact for enabling an inmate to attack another inmate. In this case, the corrections officer allowed one of the more dangerous inmates to leave his cell without handcuffs, enter the cell of the victim and close the cell door. The attacker then stabbed the victim. The officer then mopped up the blood in the victim’s cell. The problem for the corrections officer is that another inmate observed the entire incident including the officer allowing the attacker to move freely through opened doors in the prison. The other problem is that the inmate witness was on the phone describing the incident as it occurred, and all such calls from the prison are recorded.
The prosecution admitted the evidence of the recorded phone call describing the officer’s actions and the attack during the trial. The criminal defense lawyer argued that the recorded phone call was inadmissible hearsay and should not be admitted during the trial. The court disagreed and held that the recorded phone call fell under an exception to the hearsay rule which involves people describing observed events as they occur. The law finds that unplanned statements describing an event that are made as the event is occurring are typically reliable. Additionally, the recorded phone call was not “testimonial” as it was spontaneous and not a statement given for use later at trial. Therefore, the recorded phone call was admissible to essentially seal the conviction of this corrections officer.