An Alabama circuit court judge on Wednesday dismissed manslaughter charges against an incarcerated man and a former Alabama correctional officer who were both set to be tried in the beating death of another prisoner.
Elmore County Circuit Court Judge Ben Fuller in two separate filings Wednesday dismissed those charges against prisoner Bryan Blount and former Alabama Department of Corrections officer Jeremy Singleton.
Billy Smith died after being beaten at Elmore Correctional Facility in November 2017. Smith was hogtied and beaten by guards, then denied medical care by a prison nurse, according to an internal Alabama Department of Corrections report, obtained by Injustice Watch, and court records.
Blount allegedly hit Smith in the head, the state alleged in the manslaughter charge against him. The state also said Singleton hit Smith in the head multiple times, according to the state’s complaint against him.
“The State has stated two different causes of death for one person and does not know what or who is the real reason and cause of death to the victim, Billy Smith,” Blount’s attorney, Desirae Lewis, wrote in motion to dismiss, filed Aug. 11.
Lewis wrote that instead of sending Smith to an emergency room, the nurse and former officer Singleton returned Smith back to the prison.
“Mr. Smith, who pleaded for medical attention and sat for several hours after the head injury incident, was restrained by being hogged tied and laid on his belly, water was poured on him and entered his lungs, and he was beaten by former correctional officer Singleton and other officers, per statements of runners and inmates who saw the abuse first hand, as well as the nursing staff who stated he appeared worse when he was returned from the medical house back to the prison after he was refused medical treatment,” Lewis wrote in the filing.
Singleton’s Attorney, Mickey McDermott, in his motion to dismiss wrote that the state was attempting to charge two men with killing Smith, while not charging the nurse in connection for the death, who failed to provide medical care.
APR’s attempts to contact McDermott and Lewis on Friday were unsuccessful.
Mandy Johnson, Elmore County senior assistant district attorney and a prosecutor on the cases, told APR that her office had at first asked the court to try both defendants at the same time, a request the judge denied.
“In looking at the evidence in the case, and what we did have and what we did not have, I could not say in good faith that I believe that Bryan Blount or Jeremy Singleton, or both, are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Johnson said.
“Sometimes it is our job to make the right decision, and sometimes the right decision isn’t the popular decision,” Johnson said.
The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the state and the Alabama Department of Corrections over what the federal government alleges is the unconstitutional treatment of men in Alabama prisons, which fails to protect them from violence and death.
“In the two years following the United States’ original notification to the State of unconstitutional conditions of confinement, prisoners at Alabama’s Prisons for Men have continued daily to endure a substantial risk of serious harm, including death, physical violence, and sexual abuse at the hands of other prisoners,” the DOJ’s amended complaint, filed in May, reads.
From 2015 to 2020, the number of prisoner-on-prisoner homicides increased by more than 200 percent, from 5 to 16 homicides, although ADOC is also underreporting instances of homicides inside state prisons, misclassifying some and simply not reporting others at all, the DOJ notes.