Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jury finds corrections officer guilty of violating inmate's civil rights

The trial ended Wednesday night for woman accused of arranging inmate's death at Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman in 2005.

A federal jury in Orlando found a former corrections officer guilty tonight of violating an inmate's rights by arranging to have him killed.

The 12 jurors deliberated for several hours before finding Erin Sharma guilty of two charges.

Prosecutors said Sharma, who worked at the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman, wanted revenge against inmate Richard Delano in February 2005 because he grabbed her arm and bruised her.

So she plotted with a fellow corrections officer to move Delano into the cell of notoriously violent inmate John McCullah, known as "Animal," the government alleged. The two told their lieutenant that Delano wanted to be housed with McCullah. The lieutenant approved the move.

Earlier in the trial, federal prosecutor Douglas Kern said Sharma told McCullah to assault Delano when she wasn't working.

Several days after Delano moved into McCullah's cell, McCullah attacked Delano. Delano soon died.

Earlier today, Kern told jurors that Sharma's "cruel acts" contributed to Delano's "brutal" death; a "death he didn't deserve."

"She decided to take the law into her own hands and punish Delano herself," Kern said during his closing argument.

Sharma looked emotionless as the verdicts were read aloud tonight. Her mother, seated in the courtroom, shook her head as she looked at the jury.

Senior U.S. District Judge Patricia C. Fawsett adjudicated Sharma guilty and ordered her into custody. Sharma will be sentenced in October.

After the proceedings, defense attorney Michael Nielsen said they plan to appeal.

"It's obvious we're disappointed by the verdict," he said.

Sharma's mother, Sharon Donald, said her daughter is innocent. "I know she is," Donald said. "She had nothing to do with that."


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