Former jailer Regina Rhodes painted a disturbing picture of day to day operations inside the booking room inside at the HarrisonCounty jail. She's a former jailer who's already pleaded guilty for her role in the abuse at that facility.
Rhodes testified Friday afternoon in the ongoing trial of former jailers Ryan Teel and Rick Gaston. Rhodes confirmed earlier testimony about rampant use of excessive force in the booking area and admitted her involvement in the beating of inmate of Jessie Lee Williams, Jr.
She said initially Williams grabbed the throat of Teel but after that the assault on Williams was unprovoked and he was not a threat. Rhodes described herself and Teel repeatedly striking Williams on the head and neck.
She recounted how Teel peppersprayed Williams, shot him with a taser and then hog-tied the inmate. Rhodes testified that while Williams was in a restraining chair, Teel kneed him in the groin and was choking him with a leather strap.
She says Teel shouted repeatedly, "I'm going to kill you."
Rhodes also coroberated earlier testimony of former jailers who talked about an unwritten policy of "red light-green light."
Red light, Rhodes said, meant jailers couldn't hit an inmate in the face, because that would leave a mark. Green light, signaled the rest of the body was fair game to hit according to Rhodes testimony.
Gulfport neurosurgeon Dr. James Doty spent most of Friday morning describing in detail the fatal injuries to Jessie Lee Williams. Dr. Doty said the brian hemorage William sustained was among the largest he'd seen in 20 years of practice.
The doctor told the jury he had just a one to two percent chance of saving the inmates life. Dr. Doty said the injury to Williams brain was consistent with blunt force trauma, the kind that might be cause with punches by a closed fist.
Dr. Doty said he had to make the difficult decision to sew shut Williams scalp because he could not control the bleeding on the operating table.
The jury was shown a CT scan image which showed the injury to Williams brain; a massive blood clot that extended from the base of his skull to the top of his head.
The most damaging testimoy toward defendant Rick Gaston, a former captain with the Sheriff's Department came from former jailer Vicky Burns.
She told the jury, "I complained to Gaston ten plus time about the use of excessive force, but he didn't do anything about it."
Burns testified Gaston was angry about a meeting in April 2005 in which Sheriff George Payne, Jr. was trying to get a handle on the use of excessive force in the booking area. Attorneys did not question Burns further about what Payne did after that meeting.
Burns told the jury she never used unnecessary excessive force on any inmate and preferred talking to them instead. In fact, she testified she was ridiculed for this by her fellow officers and labeled an "inmate lover."
Once, Burns said she did have to punch an inmate who was charging her. She said she was later congratulated for her actions by her fellow booking officers.
The prosecution reumes its case Monday at 9 am at the Federal Courthouse in Hattiesburg. The Government could wrap up its case as early as noon Monday. Then, defense attorneys for Teel and Gaston will begin to present their cases.
The trial is expected to wrap up by the end of next week.
Steve Phillips will be back in the courtroom and have updates on WLOX News daily and www.wlox.com.