In the jail abuse trial Thursday, testimony began to focus on Jessie Lee Williams for the first time. Government prosecutors are continuing to lay out their case against former Harrison County jailers Ryan Teel and Rick Gaston.
Some of the most chilling testimony so far, came before lunch from a 16-year-old Gulfport High student. Jeremy Powell was 14-years-old when he spent the night at the Harrison County jail as part of a school job shadowing assignment. He happened to spend the night in booking February 4, 2006. That's the night inmate Jessie Lee Williams was brought to the jail by Gulfport Police.
Powell described to the jury a brutal assault on Williams by defendant Ryan Teel. The teenager told the jury, "I just couldn't believe it was happening. That much brute force. It wasn't needed."
Powell said the previous calm in the booking area quickly turned hostile as Teel began his abuse toward the inmate.
"They kept punching him in the back, telling him to be still, but he wasn't moving," Powell testified.
The teen also told the jury he heard Teel shout at one point he was going to kill Williams. Along with the dramatic witness, the government also showed a videotape of the assault against Williams.
It showed Teel delivering punches to the inmate and showed the defendant picking up a hog-tied Williams and dropping him to the floor.
Two Gulfport Police officers who dealt with Williams the night of February 4, 2006 took the stand. Both officers testified Williams was intoxicated and belligerent, but they told prosecutors he had no signs of any injuries.
That contradicts what Ryan Teel's defense attorney told the court in his opening statement. He suggested Williams was already injured when he arrived at the jail.
Rupert Lacy, who now works with Harrison County Emergency Management office, told jurors that pepper spray and tasers were tools to be used only when an inmate was combative or physically threatening.
In other testimony, a former jail instructor testified about administering pepper spray and taser training to corrections officers, including Ryan Teel. Yesterday, former jailer Timothy Moore testified jailers would put pepper spray on door handles and toilet seats to burn inmates.