Harrison County Inmate Abuse Trial Set To Resume Monday - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Harrison County Inmate Abuse Trial Set To Resume Monday

Williams Family attorney, Michael Crosby, was in the court room as the all white jury began hearing testimony on Tuesday. Witnesses took the stand and told what they claim was inmate abuse in the Harrison County Jail booking room the night Jessie Lee Williams was brought in.

Former jailers, other law enforcement personnel and even a Gulfport teen who was job shadowing at the jail, described the encounter between Williams and former Harrison County jailer Ryan Teel.  

"It's just astonishing to see the way the officers all saw what was happening and did not stop it," said Crosby. "You know they all feel guilty about it. You can see the painful expressions, but my goodness, what they witnessed and heard and saw."

Witnesses say Teel launched a series of assaults on Williams. They described a series of blows and kicks, all while Williams was locked in a restraint chair. Neurosurgeon Doctor William Doty, who later examined Williams, testified it was one of the worst beatings he had ever seen.

Graphic descriptions became real images on Thursday when the much talked about surveillance tape was finally shown to the jury. The tape showed Teel wasn't acting alone.  

"You had three different officers, minimum, beating on Jessie Williams," said Crosby. "Beating the blood out of him. And then you have a trustee come around with his head down mopping up the life blood next to Jessie as they continue to beat more out of him."

Former jailer Regina Rhodes also gave more damaging testimony against Teel and booking division captain Rick Gaston. Rhodes was the first of eight former jailers to break the code of silence and agree to testify against Teel and Gaston. She admitted her part in the assault on Williams and described how the two made inmate abuse a common occurrence at the jail.  

"The cover up and the blatant way it's coming out is what's shocking," said Crosby.  

The defense began the trial urging jurors to watch the video tapes closely, claiming the force used by officers was not excessive. They will likely begin presenting that argument in the next few days.

Steve Phillips will be in Hattiesburg at the Federal Courthouse covering this case. For the latest on this story, stay tuned to WLOX News and WLOX.com.

by Don Culpepper

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