Gaston Testifies He Was Never Told Of Inmate Abuse

Attorneys for defendant Rick Gaston rested their case Wednesday afternoon after Gaston testified on his own behalf. Gaston is on trial along with Ryan Teel for allegations involving inmate abuse at the Harrison County Jail.

Gaston disputed earlier testimony that suggested there was widespread abuse of inmates in the booking area that he supervised. He said the first he heard about several such incidents was from former jailers who took the stand as prosecution witnesses.

Gaston told the jury, " there were officers doing things on their own when supervisors were not there and then apparently writing false reports."

Gaston specifically disputed the prosecution testimony of former jailer Vicky Burns. She had told the jury she complained to Gaston ten plus times about questionable uses of force, but he failed to respond.

Gaston told the jury "She never brought to my attention any concerns about use of force."

Gaston testified he promoted a culture of efficiency in booking and certainly not the culture of violence as the prosecution contends. Gaston testified he was a hands on supervisor who taught his officers the right way to do things.

He testified, "I was working elbow to elbow with them... dressing out inmates, and not sitting in an office reviewing reports."

Gaston testified conditions at the jail were an ongoing problem, and told the jury there was "internal strife and a lack of leadership."

Gaston also testified that he never instructed jailers to avoid the cameras in administering force to inmates. In fact, he said, "I was instrumental in getting those cameras installed in booking and it was a state of the art system."

The Gaston defense team suffered a blow late Wednesday morning when Judge Louis Guirola ruled he would not allow the testimony of a corrections specialist from Wisconsin. That man was prepared to testify that understaffing, lack of supervision and the impact of Hurricane Katrina all contributed to increased use of force incidents at the jail.

Steve Phillips is in Hattiesburg and will have more on today's testimony on WLOX News and throughout the day on WLOX.com.