After one hour and 45 minutes of closing arguments, the federal inmate abuse case is now in the hands of a 12 member jury.
Former Harrison County jailers Ryan Teel and Rick Gaston are charged with taking part in a conspiracy that involved the abuse of inmates in the booking room of the Harrison County jail. If convicted, the two could be sentenced to a maximum term of life in prison.
During the government's close, prosecutor John Richmond told the jury, "the purpose of the conspiracy was to assault people and cover it up."
Richmond said Rick Gaston was violating the use of force policy, violating his training, and violating the law. The attorney said they brought disgrace upon themselves.
Richmond told the jury the defendants, "were partners together in the sadistic world of booking."
As for the assault on inmate Jesse Lee Williams, who died after his altercation at the jail, Richmond said, "Teel could not have used a greater variety of physical force against Williams. Teel killed Williams. He did it willfully and intentionally."
Richmond further said there's not doubt about what Teel did and the fact he tried to cover it up. This time he went too far.
As for Rick Gaston, Richmond disputed Gaston's own defense testimony.
Richmond told the jury, "for his version to be believed, everyone else would have to be wrong. He turned his badge into a license to abuse."
During his closing arguments, Teel's attorney, Jim Davis, said, "You have to decide whether these officers used excessive force or not."
He told the jury corrections officers have a right to maintain discipline and control. They can use force to maintain that discipline and control.
He painted much of the prosecution testimony as "gossip and idle talk between various deputies."
As for the Jesse Williams incident, Davis urged the jury to take a very close look again at the video tape. He said it never shows Teel hitting, kicking or striking Williams in the head.
Davis told the jury, "if the video don't show it, you don't know it."
Davis also raised suspicion about the testimony of the former jailers who have already admitted their own guilt.
"They are accomplices. You are to review their testimony with great care and suspicion," Davis said.
John Weber, the attorney for Rick Gaston, told the jury you cannot paint Capt. Rick Gaston and Ryan Teel with the same brush. Weber said, "You know that Ryan Teel lied to Gaston in his reports."
Weber also said, "You've heard of incidents that occurred when Capt. Gaston was not present."
The defense attorney also asked the jury to consider problems with the chain of command and leadership at the jail.
"They had to find a scapegoat, someone not a part of that executive management and that is Capt. Gaston."
As for the damaging testimony of former jailers, Weber told the jury, "There is every reason for them not to tell you the truth. They are singing the song the government wants them to sing, and the payment is freedom - one less day to spend away from their loved ones."
Weber told the jury that Capt. Gaston, "acted in good faith and he tried to make booking a professional place, but he was undermined by his officers, who did terrible things."
The jury will consider the charges this afternoon, following a lunch break.
Steve Phillips will have more on the trial today on WLOX News and WLOX.com.
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