No verdict yet in county lawsuit trial

By Robin Fornoff

CMI PROJECTS EDITOR

rfornoff@cnjonline.com

Jury deliberations resume today in a civil lawsuit against Curry County filed by a former inmate beaten in the jail.

John Landon Hall, 26, is asking for at least $250,000 in damages for the April 2009 assault while he was in jail facing drug charges.

The trial started Monday and lawyers for both sides finished closing arguments around 1 p.m. Thursday. Jurors considered the case about four hours before District Judge David Reeb sent them home around 5 p.m. to be with family for Halloween, ordering them not to discuss the case with anyone or read any news accounts of the trial.

Hall, 21 when he was attacked, is claiming severe physical and emotional damage from the assault by at least four inmates while he was in the maximum security unit of the jail. Curry County claims Hall started the fight and is only suing because he didn’t like the results.

Hall’s attorney, Marna Trammell, told jurors her client was beaten bloody and nearly unconscious and wasn’t discovered by jail staff for about two hours after the attack. No detention officers were observing the unit because of jail staff shortages, according to Trammell.

The jail staff was finally alerted by a concerned inmate who began banging on the one-way glass in an office used by detention officers to observe inmates, Trammell said.

Hall was later treated at Plains Regional Medical Center, suffering broken cheek bones, a broken nose and severe cuts. He was returned to the jail four hours later the same day only to be taken to the hospital again the next day.

Trammell said Hall was admitted to PRMC’s intensive care unit with a concussion, an elevated heart rate and severe dehydration.

“Most of us will never know the fear he had,” Trammell told jurors during closing arguments. “He had no way out, no one to come to his aid.”

“The injuries were horrible,” Trammell said. “The after effects are horrendous.”

Curry County’s insurance attorney Jonlyn Martinez told jurors Hall was a sore loser.

Martinez said video surveillance images and witnesses testified Hall not only started the fight, but voluntarily entered a cell to engage in a brawl he had set up. Hall said in depositions that he won the fight and the others then jumped him.

“He went in there to fight,” said Martinez. “He just didn’t like the way it ended.”

Jurors can award more than the $250,000 being sought if they choose but only for actual medical expenses, pain and suffering, according to Reeb. Jurors can’t assess punitive damages, he said.