Woman sues jailers, says se­cu­rity video shows the pair as­saulted her

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By lind­sey Bomnin

A woman charged with drunken driv­ing has filed a law­suit against two Travis County jailers who she says as­saulted her two years ago, and she showed a sur­veil­lance video to back her claims.

Shay Mor­row, a 35-year-old ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant at a hos­pi­tal, said she sought out the Texas Civil Rights Project to help make her case “be­cause I didn’t want this to hap­pen to any­one else.”

The law­suit was an­nounced at a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day.

Mor­row said the sur­veil­lance tape from Dec. 7, 2008, which her at­tor­ney ob­tained, shows two Travis County sher­iff ’s of­fice cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers throw­ing Mor­row into the wall, then onto the ground and fi­nally slam­ming her head against the con­crete. The law­suit iden­ti­fies the of­fi­cers as Layla Ren­don and Tracy C. Hill.

Mor­row said the in­ci­dent was pro­voked by the ring­ing of her cell phone; she said she was al­lowed to have it on her at the time to copy phone num­bers she would need to no­tify her fam­ily

of her bail.

“What’s re­mark­able about this case isn’t that this bru­tal­ity oc­curred, but that we have a video­tape of it,” said Scott Med­lock, the di­rec­tor of the Pris­on­ers’ Rights Pro­gram at the Texas Civil Rights Project. He said his group gets letters from pris­on­ers ev­ery day about jailers us­ing ex­ces­sive force, but there is usu­ally no ev­i­dence.

Sher­iff’s of­fi­cials said they learned of the law­suit Wed­nes­day and that no for­mal com­plaint had been filed with their in­ter­nal af­fairs unit over the in­ci­dent. In re­sponse to the law­suit, Sher­iff Greg Hamil­ton or­dered an in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Mor­row’s al­le­ga­tions.

At the news con­fer­ence, Mor­row said she heard the su­per­vi­sor re­mind one of the guards that she had pre­vi­ously been warned about us­ing ex­ces­sive force. The guard re­sponded that she did not know her own strength be­cause she had been work­ing out, Mor­row said.

Mor­row said she suf­fered a con­cus­sion, a lac­er­a­tion to her chin and bleed­ing from her ear from the in­ci­dent.

Ren­don and Hill re­main em­ployed with the sher­iff’s of­fice, ac­cord­ing to its hu­man re­sources depart­ment.

Mor­row was taken to Uni­ver­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter Brack­en­ridge for a few hours to treat her wounds and was re­turned to the jail. Mor­row said she was un­able to con­tact her fam­ily and was not given an­other op­por­tu­nity to re­trieve the phone num­bers that she lost dur­ing the as­sault. She said she was re­leased two days later af­ter post­ing bail of $5,000.

Fol­low­ing her time in jail, Mor­row said she filed a writ­ten com­plaint with the Del Valle jail and an­other with the Travis County sher­iff’s of­fice.

“There was no in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion done af­ter this as­sault,” Med­lock said. “That’s pretty trou­bling.”

Mor­row said she spent the three months af­ter the in­ci­dent at home with anx­i­ety attacks, night ter­rors and psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems.

“I was afraid to go out of my house,” Mor­row said. Now, she said, she’s ter­ri­fied of get­ting pulled over. Mor­row is seek­ing un­spec­i­fied com­pen­sa­tion for phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal in­juries.

County jail em­ploy­ees “need to un­der­stand that they’re part of our democ­racy,” said Jim Harrington, di­rec­tor of the Texas Civil Rights Project. “They need to un­der­stand that ev­ery­one has rights and dig­nity.”

Jar­rad Hen­der­son

Shay Mor­row, left, with the Texas Civil Rights Project’s Jim Harrington, says she was as­saulted by Travis jail em­ploy­ees in 2008.

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