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EX PARTE MARSHALL

July 1, 1949

Ex parte MARSHALL


The opinion of the court was delivered by: FORMAN

James Marshall filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that he was held prisoner by the Sheriff of Middlesex County, at New Brunswick, New Jersey, under a warrant issued by the Governor of New Jersey at the demand of the executive authority of the State of Georgia by reason of the petitioner's escape from confinement in that State. The petitioner further recited that he had been convicted of robbery and confined to the Richmond County Prison Farm in Georgia, where he alleged he was 'subjected to constant, cruel, barbaric and unusual punishment in violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibiting the infliction of cruel and inhuman punishment by a state'; that he was, while so confined, 'the victim of numerous cruel and inhuman incidents at the hands of his jailors to the extent that his life and health were in great jeopardy', and that if returned to the State of Georgia he must finish a term of 36 to 60 years under the conditions above described. He prayed for his discharge.

Counsel, appointed to represent the petitioner by the Judge of the Middlesex County Court, in submitting the petition to this court on the afternoon of June 16, 1949, orally represented that he had made application to that court for a writ of habeas corpus and had been informed by the Judge that he intended to deny the application the morning of June 17, 1949. The writ was thereupon allowed and made returnable June 27, 1949.

 On the return day the Sheriff of Middlesex County made his return to the writ and produced the petitioner in court. An application to intervene on behalf of the State of Georgia was made by counsel to the Board of Commissioners of Roads and Revenue of Richmond County, Virginia, and was granted.

 The petitioner testified that in 1943 he was convicted of a charge of robbery and was sentenced to serve a term of from 36 to 60 years, following which he was received at the Richmond County Jail and assigned to the Richmond County Stockade or Public Works Camp situate on the outskirts of August, Georgia. Together with other prisoners he left the Stockade each morning in fair weather, although on occasion in rainy weather too, and was driven by motor truck to some place along the county road system where he worked on the roads and ditches to make and maintain them. The working party was in charge of a foreman, David Turner, and a number of guards. The guards were armed with shotguns. The foreman carried a hickory stick approximately four feet long with which he beat petitioner and other prisoners whenever he saw fit. On May 5, 1944, petitioner made his escape from his crew and although the guards shot at him he got away unharmed and made his way to New Brunswick, New Jersey, where his mother and a brother were living. He remained in New Brunswick for a period of three years and ten months, when, through a proceeding brought against him by his wife, his status as a fugitive was revealed, and he was returned to Georgia pursuant to a warrant issued for his extradition. Again he spent four days in the Richmond County Jail and was transferred to the Stockade where he resumed his road tending work with the same crew, guards and foreman, David Turner.

 He received no untoward treatment for some months after his return but thereafter the foreman began beating him with the stick and on one occasion beat him with the butt of his pistol inflicting two wounds on his scalp. He was also beaten once or twice by a guard, Alvin Jones. Again he made his escape on August 26, 1948, and returned to New Brunswick, New Jersey, and again was apprehended as a fugitive.

 He asserted that he bled after the beatings and particularly after he was struck on the head and that he was never given medical attention for his wounds. He exhibited healed scars on his scalp, back and right thigh, which he claimed were all due to the beatings.

 On cross examination he admitted that he had served two prior sentences in the Richmond County Stockade; one in 1937, at which time he was subjected to beatings by David Turner; and again in 1939 when he was returned to the same place and at this time David Turner was replaced by his brother, John Turner, who similarly mistreated the petitioner. He conceded that the County Physician visited the Stockade from time to time but contended that he was never permitted to consult the doctor.

 He stated that in 1939 when he was in custody at the Stockade that he was obliged to wear chains attached to his legs, a striped uniform and went out to work at 'sun-up' and did not finish until 'sun-down'. During his third period of custody in 1943, he conceded that the practice of using chains and irons on prisoners was abolished and that prisoners were no longer compelled to wear striped garments. He testified that they left for their road work at about 7:30 in the morning, had from one to two hours rest period at noon and were returned to the Stockade at about 5:30 each afternoon.

 Another witness, likewise confronted with extradition proceedings for his escape from a chain gang in Georgia in 1938, offered testimony on behalf of the petitioner as to brutal treatment and inhuman conditions experienced by him prior to his escape. However, they involved institutions of other counties at a period not later than 1938.

 Walter Kent testified on behalf of the intervening demanding authority that he is Chief Deputy Sheriff of Richmond County, having been attached to the Sheriff's office for 25 years which gave him an intimate knowledge of its facilities. He stated that it was the law and practice in Georgia for the various counties of the State to request assignment of State prisoners to maintain the county road system. In Richmond County he estimated that there were at least 350 miles of dirt roads to be maintained. The State filled such requests by assigning prisoners not held in the State Prison to the counties. Each county upon such assignment was responsible, through its Board of Commissioners, for the maintenance and care of the prisoner until his term expired, in return for which it was permitted to exact the service above mentioned. The witness conceded that the kind of maintenance provided by the counties for such prisoners depended upon the size and financial condition of the county. He asserted that Richmond County was one of the largest counties in Georgia and accordingly had provided a new County Jail building in the City of August only about 12 years ago which contained the most modern custodial institutional improvements. The other facility provided was known as the Richmond County Stockade or Public Works Camp in which the prisoners who worked on the roads were quartered. When weather permitted them to do their work, they left in the morning to go to their tasks and returned at the end of each afternoon.

 As Chief Deputy Sheriff, the witness was in charge of 22 deputies who performed police work through out the county and while his office had no control or supervision of the Stockade, he had nearly daily occasion to be at that institution. The Stockade is an older brick building of three stories surrounded by 35 acres of farm land, the 10 acres immediately surrounding the building being fenced in. Within the fenced enclosure are several buildings besides the main building including a laundry, cow shed, barn, grain storage, gasoline station and a small store at which candies, notions, et cetera are sold to inmates. This enterprise was operated by a trusty who was a life termer. Other trusties were permitted to make purchases for the inmates.

 The entire institution, according to the witness, was kept in a clean and sanitary condition, particularly the kitchen and feeding sections where he said that he often ate with the guards at the Stockade. Vegetables were raised on the farm and were fed to the inmates as well as other staples and, from his observation, the food given the prisoners was wholesome and sufficient. Cold storage food boxes had been installed and a plentiful supply of food was kept in refrigeration. Prisoners were assigned as cooks and these and other trusties were allowed the freedom of the enclosure. On his patrol over the county roads, the witness ...


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