Ex-inmate wins $2M lawsuit in New Mexico over hot prison van | KOB 4

Ex-inmate wins $2M lawsuit in New Mexico over hot prison van

The Associated Press, Tessa Mentus
April 05, 2019 10:12 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A former New Mexico inmate's attorney says he has won a $2 million verdict in a lawsuit accusing two officers of leaving him and others in a prisoner transport van to suffer on a hot summer day in 2013.

The decision comes more than three years after Isaha Casias sued the New Mexico Department of Corrections and the officers.

Attorney Matthew Coyte says the verdict was reached late Thursday in federal court in Roswell.

Casias claimed that two correctional officers in charge of the transport turned off the van and left for an hour, leaving no air conditioning for the 11 inmates packed in the vehicle.

"As time progressed it got extremely hot, and then people around me started to panic. I started to panic," Casias said. "It got intense in there. It really felt like an oven." 

Casias said inmates started passing out, including him. When officers finally returned and opened the back door, he said he fell from the vehicle and hit his head and back on its bumper.

An attorney for the corrections department and officers did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

Matthew Coyte, the attorney for Casias, says he thinks there's a new understanding of the horrors of prison transport. 

"They're starting to get some attention. When you dig into it and see what happened to Mr. Casias and those other men, you understand why something has to change," Coyte said.

Both corrections officers were cleared in an internal investigation.

The other inmates were witnesses in this lawsuit. However, they gave their depositions behind bars because they refused to get in a transport vehicle.


The Associated Press, Tessa Mentus

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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