Pelham ‘abuse’ trial begins

Ammon Ra Sumrall

Ammon Ra Sumrall

ALBANY, Ga. — Jury selection began Monday for the civil lawsuit brought by an Autry State Prison inmate who contends he was beaten by prison staff.

Ammon Ra Sumrall, 41, is serving a life sentence for murder and other charges from Dekalb County. He’s suing members of Autry State Prison’s Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT unit, who he contends punched, beat and kicked him when he arrived at the prison in October 2009 from Macon State Prison.

As a result, Sumrall says he sustained several cracked ribs and a lingering back injury.

The state has denied most of the allegations made in Sumrall’s suit and also argues that members of the CERT team have a qualified immunity from lawsuits filed against them.

Sumrall has brought similar suits before the federal court system in the past, each alleging a possible civil rights violation. In total, four suits have been brought against law enforcement officers or prison officials. Three were denied by a jury, and the fourth was dismissed by the court before trial.

In a June 3 ruling, Judge Louis Sands told lawyers on both sides of the case Sumrall’s previous lawsuits couldn’t be brought up in front of the jury. His previous convictions, however, could be used by the defense as a way to discredit Sumrall’s claim or any possible testimony he may attempt to give.