5 Inmates Died After Judge Refused Cancer Inmate with Doctorate Degree re: COVID Warnings

February 26, 2021

By @BlackDefendants

FIVE INMATES DIED after a judge refused a hearing for Vern Braswell, a cancer diagnosed minimum security inmate who has also earned a doctorate degree while incarcerated, as he tried to get home confinement and warn about approaching deadly covid outbreaks at his prison facility.

Five inmates from two prisons in West Tennessee died from COVID-19 in just over a month after Memphis judge denied a minimum security cancer patient, Vern Braswell's, plea to complete his sentence on monitored home confinement house arrest. Braswell, who has earned a doctorate degree since he's been incarcerated, accurately predicted deadly COVID-19 outbreaks at his prison facility. Sadly, the Judge agreed with prosecutors and denied the request without a hearing to evaluate evidence or to listen to arguments on the deadly nature of the approaching outbreaks in prison or the need for home confinement to keep inmates alive.

Vern Braswell is a minimum security inmate with cancer who has four years remaining on a twenty-four year sentence. The fact that he earned a doctorate degree during his incarceration may have played a part in Braswell's ability to predict the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at his prison, but the Shelby County DA's Office in Memphis and a Shelby County Judge, Paula Skahan, refused to take heed to his warnings or listen to his pleas.

In response to Braswell's predictions and fears, his family, filed his court motion on December 20th, 2020, begging the courts to let Braswell finish his sentence on monitored home confinement house arrest because of his cancer diagnosis and what appeared to be approaching deadly COVID-19 outbreaks at his prison facility.

Braswell added that his upcoming radiation treatments would make him even more vulnerable to a COVID-19 death. In the court motion, Braswell said the Tennessee and the U. S. Constitutions’ clauses against cruel and unusual punishment would permit his request to be granted “in the interests of justice”. He also referenced Governor Bill Lee's state of emergency and the rise of other COVID-19 variants.

The Shelby County DA's Office opposed Braswell's cancer and COVID based request. On January 11th the DA's office asked the judge to dismiss Braswell petition, claiming that Braswell didn't cite an authority for his request even though he based his request on both the Tennessee and U. S. Constitutions. Braswell, who holds a doctorate degree, was forced to hand write his court motions from memory while on lockdown because the prison law library was closed due to COVID outbreaks. He mailed it to his family who typed it and filed it at the court clerk's office.

Without a hearing to evaluate any evidence, to hear any arguments about the upcoming deadly COVID-19 outbreaks or Braswell's potential for death, the judge immediately granted prosecutors’ motion to deny Braswell's request.

Just like Braswell predicted, the very next day, on January 12th, a federal inmate in Shelby County, Harry Edward Cunningham, died from COVID-19. Cunningham, like Braswell, also had long-term pre-existing medical conditions, which the CDC lists as risk factors for developing more severe COVID-19 disease. Neither the DA's office or the judge sought to change their decision about Braswell.

Following the death of Cunningham, about a week later, Craig Garber, another West Tennessee inmate housed at the same prison where Braswell is located, died from COVID-19. The court system remained silent on Braswell's request. Neither the Shelby County judge nor the DA's office sought to revisit the issue concerning the potential for death of Braswell or any other inmates for that matter.

Around January 28th, a second inmate housed at Braswell's same prison, Tommy Dale Taylor, Sr., died from COVID-19. Taylor, like Braswell, also had cancer. Even though Braswell's predictions were coming true and striking closer and closer to him, the court system continued to remain silent on what was obviously no coincidence. No one said, “Let's see what we can do…in the interests of justice”. Nothing from the Memphis judge or DA's office on revisiting the issue or Braswell's request.

Braswell filed an appeal to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals to ask the court for an emergency ruling and to order the Shelby County judge to give Braswell an emergency hearing and the opportunity to put on evidence about the increasing dangers of COVID-19 and his vulnerability. He also notified the court about the additional deaths due to COVID-19.

A few days later, around January 31st, Jack Hutchinson became the third inmate at Braswell's prison facility to die from COVID-19 in two weeks. This made the total recent COVID deaths due to the deadly outbreaks that Braswell predicted and a judge ignored to 4 deaths in less than 3 weeks, with 3 of the deaths being at the same facility as Braswell.

Between February 19th and February 22nd another inmate at the same prison as Braswell died of COVID-19.

In spite of five deaths in just over a month, a trustee eligible minimum security cancer patient begging a judge to place him on ankle monitored house arrest continues to be ignored by the court system, even though he accurately predicted the deadly COVID outbreaks at his prison. Braswell and his family have reached out to organizations such as the ACLU for help but no one has agreed to help so far.

To add further insult to injury several executions have been stopped because of COVID-19 meaning that…
Death row inmates lives are being spared because of COVID-19 while minimum security inmates with cancer lives are being lost because of COVID-19.

Vern Braswell, family seek early release after 2005 murder conviction

Federal inmate in Memphis dies after contracting COVID-19 – FOX13 News Memphis


Facebook: Justice For Vern Braswell