NEW ORLEANS- Chief Judge Brian A. Jackson of the Middle District of Louisiana ruled today in favor of Plaintiffs Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code, and James Magee in their lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections regarding the extreme heat conditions on Death Row at Angola. Chief Judge Jackson ruled that these conditions violate the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and found that "it is beyond dispute that a permanent injunction against Defendants serves the public interest in that it will enforce the fundamental rights enshrined in the United States Constitution." To remedy these conditions, Judge Jackson ordered the Defendants to "immediately develop a plan to reduce and maintain the heat index in the Angola death row tiers at or below 88 degrees Fahrenheit."
The Court issued several rulings today, including granting in part Plaintiffs' Motion for Sanctions regarding evidence tampering. The Court went on to order a hearing where it will consider personal sanctions against the attorneys representing the state for their "alarming lack of candor."
New Orleans non-profit organization The Promise of Justice Initiative (PJI) and the law firm Bird Marella, along with attorney Steve Scheckman of the law firm Schiff, Scheckman and White, initiated the case on behalf of the plaintiffs in June 2013, alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment, as well as of federal disability statutes, due to extreme and unsafe temperatures in Angola's Death Row facility during the summer months. The defendants include the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, its Secretary James LeBlanc, Burl Cain, Warden of Angola and Angela Norwood, Warden of Death Row of the Penitentiary. The plaintiffs are Death Row inmates Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code, and James Magee. The lawsuit sought no monetary damages, instead seeking only that the temperatures be controlled and kept within safe levels.