Trial begins in case claiming unhealthy conditions on death row

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - How hot is too hot? Attorneys for three prisoners currently on death row at Angola State Penitentiary are arguing the men are being exposed to heat values that are unsafe.

WAFB Chief Meteorologist Jay Grymes, who will be a witness in the trial, explained how the heat numbers work.

"The heat index gives us a guideline as what the environmental conditions and particularly what the moisture is doing in terms of adding to the heat load on the body," said Grymes.

In July, a court order was issued charging a third party to collect heat data from various areas at the prison. On Monday however, numerous witnesses testified that prison officials installed awnings after the court order was issued.

"When someone who has exclusive control of that information then begins to manipulate that information or begin to make an attempt to manipulate information it's not relevant whether they meant to or not meant to, they had exclusive control of that stuff and we didn't and that's the issue with respect to the awnings," said plaintiff attorney Nilay Vora.

Attorneys for the defense, or the state, chose not to speak to WAFB on camera but countered in court through examination the awnings did not cause a significant change in the data collected. The plaintiff attorneys say awnings or not the issue is that these prisoners face an increased health risk daily because they are kept in cells that are too hot for safe living.

"At the end of the day that's what this comes down to we think we're going to make that case clearly and we're just looking forward to hearing what the judge's thoughts are on that," said plaintiff attorney Mercedes Montagnes.

Monday's trial proceedings lasted about nine hours and Tuesday more witness testimony is expected before attorneys for the plaintiffs and the state close their cases. Court resumes at 8:30 a.m. at federal court in Baton Rouge.

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