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Jury finds for inmate, awards $45,000 in damages

Ammon Ra Sumrall

Ammon Ra Sumrall

ALBANY, Ga. — A jury has determined that four Autry State Prison officers unfairly beat an inmate in their custody and awarded him nearly $45,000 in damages.

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

As a result of the alleged attack, Sumrall said he sustained several cracked ribs and a lingering back injury.

Following the trial and three hours of deliberation, jurors found for Sumrall, confirming that the officers did overstep their authority by using excessive force against him.

In their findings, jurors wrote that they believed the officers “acted with malice” in their treatment of Sumrall, and that their actions violated his constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment.

They awarded him $20,000 in compensatory damages for his injuries and a total of $25,000 in punitive damages against the officers to dissuade them from doing it again.

Charles Peeler, Sumrall’s attorney, said Friday that the verdict underscores the delicate balance that law enforcement must use when handling inmates and reinforces the idea that inmates don’t shed all of their rights once they step into a penal institution.

“Law enforcement officers have a tough job, and sometimes they are in dangerous situations and need to use force to protect themselves or others. But the U.S. Constitution puts limits on the amount of force officers can use,” Peeler said. “Force can’t be excessive. If it is, the officers are accountable. The 8th Amendment protects all citizens from the use of excessive force by the government, even prisoners.”