Death row inmates sue over living conditions

Nathaniel Code
Nathaniel Code
James Magee
James Magee
Lynne Marino
Lynne Marino

ANGOLA, LA (WAFB) - Three Angola inmates are taking the state to court over what they claim are "extreme" and "unsafe" living conditions on death row.

Their attorney claims the prisoners' lives are in danger. But two women who lost their daughters to a man living on death row said the allegations are absurd.

The temperatures are rising and so are frustrations behind bars at the Angola State Penitentiary.  Three inmates, Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code and James Magee claim they are being forced to live in extreme and dangerous heat.

Ball is on death row for killing a delivery man in Gretna; Code for murdering four people at a home in Shreveport; Magee for murdering his estranged wife and their five year old son in St. Tammany Parish.
 
Lynne Marino and Ann Pace both lost their daughters at the hands of South Louisiana serial killer Derrick Todd Lee. While Lee is not named in the lawsuit, he is on death row living under similar conditions being questioned by three inmates.

"I immediately thought, 'oh good grief,'" Pace said.

"These are hardened criminals. Where do they think Angola is - the Hilton Inn?  The audacity for them to say 'It's hot at Angola.' It's going to be a lot hotter where they're going," Marino said.

According to the lawsuit filed by New Orleans non-profit, the Promise of Justice Initiative, on behalf of Angola inmates, "Areas of the death row facility which house visitation rooms, guard towers, and administrative offices are routinely air conditioned. The tiers that are occupied by the inmates have no climate control. The fans merely blow hot air into plaintiff's cells and feel like blow dryers blowing hot air."

The lawsuit states, "on more than one occasion in 2011, the recorded temperature was 100 degrees, the relative humidity 100%, putting heat index at 195 f."

The inmates claim Warden Burl Cain and his staff have ignored their cries.

"I thought that was completely ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous," Pace said.

"If they're hot, they're hot under the collar. This is an absolute disgrace. This is a miscarriage of justice," Marino said.

Both women, who have visited death row, said the living conditions are far from unacceptable. They don't believe the lawsuit stands a chance.

"There are actual guards in the inmate quarters and all the spaces they occupy under the same climate conditions as the inmates are experiencing," Pace said.

"What difference does it make? I mean they should be put to death.  Maybe they're uncomfortable. Do you think the victims were uncomfortable when they were murdered, slaughtered, shot, throats slashed, drowned," Marino said.

Spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, Pam Laborde, said the state does not comment on pending litigation.

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