MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A former prison guard testified Monday in an inmate beating case that a supervisor instructed officers to kill the man.
Former correctional officer Scottie Glenn testified on the opening day of the trial for former Lt. Michael Smith. Smith 38, of Auburn, is charged with violating Rocrast Mack’s rights by fatally beating him, obstructing justice and conspiring to cover up the death.
Mack was beaten at Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton on Aug. 4, 2010, and died the next day at a Montgomery hospital. Glenn has pleaded guilty to violating the inmate’s rights and conspiracy. He is helping the prosecution while awaiting sentencing.
Glenn said he was working the night of Aug. 4, 2010, when officer Melissa Brown radioed that an inmate had jumped on her and she needed help. He said Smith, who was the supervisor that night, came on the radio a short while later. “He said, ‘Make sure y’all kill” him, Glenn testified.
Glenn said that when Smith arrived on the scene, he beat Mack with a fiberglass baton until it broke, stomped him repeatedly, and placed a foot on his neck even though Mack wasn’t resisting. After learning that Mack had died, he told officers that “he deserved it,” Glenn testified.
“Mr. Glenn is a liar,” defense attorney Stephen Ganter said in his opening statement.
Later in the day, defense attorney Christine Freeman got Glenn to admit he told numerous lies during the investigation by federal and state authorities and to a grand jury. He admitted that he only revealed about three weeks ago that he struck Mack two times while the inmate was not offering any resistance.
The opening statements and testimony were supposed to begin Friday, but U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson delayed it while considering whether the defense used racial bias in striking some black potential jurors during jury selection. He ruled Monday nothing improper had occurred and allowed the trial to begin.
In opening statements, federal prosecutor Patricia Sumner said Smith violated prison policy by attacking Mack because he wanted to make a point. “He beat Mack because he wasn’t about to allow an inmate to put his hands on one of his officers and get away with it,” she said.
Ganter said Smith had to make a split-second decision based on limited knowledge while trying to maintain order in the prison. He said Smith threw blows because he came into a room where other officers appeared to be struggling to control Mack. The attorney said the supervisor did not know one of the officers had removed handcuffs from Mack and that the officer and Glenn had started hitting Mack.
“On that day, he did his job. He made the decision he had to,” the defense attorney said.
A hospital emergency room nurse testified Monday that Mack was unconscious and not breathing on his own when an ambulance brought him to Jackson Hospital in Montgomery. Emma Williamson said tests in the emergency room indicated no brain activity.
If convicted, Smith could get be sentenced to life in prison.
In addition to Glenn, one other former prison employee has pleaded guilty and another is awaiting trial after Smith.