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 Brutally Beaten to Death by 9 Florida State Guards
                                                        
                                                         Frank Valdes
           Click here to read poem FRANK
             A poem written by fellow death row prisoner Anthony LaMarca
 NEWS!  July 16, 2001 - Civil Action For The Murder Of Frank Valdes
                                         The Murder Of Frank Valdes
                                       Prison Murder - Frank Valdes
                              The Petition To Move The Valdes Trial
          Florida Supreme Court Opinion On Frank Valdez' case 
    CCADP's Reports On Other Abuses In The Florida Prison System 

          News Articles On Frank Valdez.  Reprinted from the Miami Herald.
              Click here to visit the Miami Herald's news archives on the beating death of Frank Valdez

Published Tuesday, July 20, 1999, in the Miami Herald
 Death Row fatality after fight is probed
 MARK SILVA and PHIL LONG  Herald Staff Writers

             Frank Valdez landed on Death Row for killing a prison guard. Valdez
          -- an inmate of ''X-Wing,'' the toughest solitary hold for the most
          violent of all -- died on Death Row after a brawl with several guards.
          Now the death of Valdez -- who went to prison the first time for
 fighting police officers in Miami-Dade County 20 years ago, and who was the first
 man married on Florida's Death Row -- is a state police criminal investigation.
 Nine guards at Florida State Prison near Starke -- a captain, three sergeants and
 several other officers -- are on leave with pay while Florida's Department of Law
 Enforcement sorts out what happened Saturday afternoon in the state's
 hardest-core penitentiary.
 Neither the FDLE, the governor's office nor the Department of Corrections will say
 what happened between Valdez and his sentries, but they say an ''active criminal
 investigation'' is under way.
 Knowledgeable sources say Valdez, 36, died either from a beating suffered as he
 fought guards trying to remove him from or return him to his solitary cell -- or from
 self-inflicted injuries suffered as he thrashed inside the cell attempting to hurt
 himself.
 ''He apparently fought like crazy,'' said Bill Johnson, an attorney for the Police
 Benevolent Association representing the prison guards. ''Was there a lot of force
 used? Yes. But was a lot of force necessary? Yes.''
 Valdez was violent and smart, according to people who knew him. He shot a
 prison guard from Glades Correctional Institution at close range in the head in
 1987, in an attempt to free a friend imprisoned there. That was the murder that put
 Valdez, an ex-con from Miami-Dade, on Death Row in 1990.
 ''I'm in a state of shock,'' said Wanda Valdez, a West Palm Beach woman who
 married Valdez behind bars in January 1994 -- separated by prison plexiglass as
 they exchanged vows. ''Why didn't they restrain him? Frank was not a nice guy,
 but they were supposed to watch him until he was executed, not watch him jump
 off a bunk and kill himself.''
 Valdez and his wife were divorced in 1995, according to records, but she says it
 was never finalized.
 As a younger man, Valdez, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., had been in and out of
 prison for a string of crimes in Dade County -- burglary, assault on a police officer,
 drug trafficking and kidnapping.
 Tried to aid escape
 While free in 1987, Valdez and a friend, William Van Poyck, tried to help another
 man, James O'Brien, escape from Glades Correctional Institution.
 As O'Brien was being taken to a hospital in West Palm Beach, Valdez and Van
 Poyck held up the van carrying him. Valdez shot prison guard Fred Griffis, a
 decorated Vietnam veteran, in the head. Unable to free O'Brien, Valdez and Van
 Poyck led police on a bullet-sprayed chase that ended at Palm Beach
 International Airport.
 Valdez was convicted and sentenced to death in 1990. On Death Row, he had
 lately resisted efforts by a state-appointed attorney to represent him, says Celia
 Terenzio, an assistant state attorney general. In a recent letter, Terenzio says,
 Valdez asked that his death sentence be carried out. Still, his appeal process
 was only about two-thirds complete: ''He would file something and then say, 'Go
 ahead and kill me.' ''
 Gregg Lerman, the last attorney appointed to represent Valdez, almost two years
 ago, says nothing less than freedom was acceptable to Valdez.
 ''Frank took the attitude that either he was going to get out a free man or die in
 the electric chair,'' Lerman said. ''My position with Frank was that I thought he had
 a right to a new penalty, that he should have gotten life in prison instead of
 death. . . That was not acceptable to him.''
 Attempted extraction
 Early Saturday afternoon, guards at Florida State Prison were trying to remove an
 unruly Valdez from his cell at X-wing, according to an account by the PBA's
 lawyer, Johnson, supported in detail by two well-placed sources.
 ''This guy couldn't handle it on Death Row, apparently,'' said Johnson. ''This guy
 was on X-wing, which is for the folks who can't handle it among regular Death Row
 people. It's for the very bad people who are threats to officers or to other inmates.''
 Valdez, 180 pounds and five-foot-eight, refused to come out of his cell. Two doses
 of chemical spray didn't subdue him, three sources say. As a five-guard team
 attempted to remove Valdez with a shield and electrical prod, they say, Valdez
 wielded a pepper-spray grenade and knife-like pin from the canister that the
 guards had tossed inside.
 ''There was a legitimate use of force,'' said Johnson, who went to the prison
 Saturday evening to investigate. ''They tried one type of chemical agent on the
 guy; it did not affect him; tried a second one, and then tried a third one . . . a
 [pepper spray] grenade that did not go off.''
 When the five-guard ''extraction team'' went in after Valdez, they wielded a shield
 that carries a shock. Valdez fought them with canister and pin, kicking and hitting
 the guards with the grenade. They exchanged blows. ''In trying to remove him from
 the cell, he was combative. They had to use a lot of fists,'' Johnson said.
 Examined by doctor
 Once Valdez was restrained, all sources say, he was taken to the prison's
 doctors for examination. They cleared him to be returned to his cell.
 Under almost constant watch inside the cell, sources say, Valdez worked hard at
 hurting himself. He climbed the cell's bars, one source says, and leaped to the
 floor -- landing on his head.
 When guards found him lying on the cell floor, Johnson says, they repeatedly
 attempted to revive him with CPR.
 Valdez was declared dead at Shands Starke, a community hospital run by the
 University of Florida.
 The Alachua County Medical Examiner declined to discuss preliminary findings of
 an autopsy Monday. The FDLE and Department of Corrections say the report --
 as well as the names of the nine correctional officers placed on leave while the
 investigation continues -- will not be released.
 ''I believe when the autopsy comes back it will show a lot of injuries to this guy,''
 Johnson said, ''but it will not show any criminal injuries.''
 Gov. Jeb Bush, who said he is ''concerned about the circumstances surrounding
 the death,'' is following the investigation personally.
 ''Some people felt that Frank wanted to commit suicide, but he was going to have
 the government do it for him,'' said his last lawyer, Lerman. ''Maybe that's what
 this was -- push enough buttons and they will do it for him, rather than having to
 wait until they march him to the electric chair.''



Published Wednesday, July 21, 1999, in the Miami Herald
 Murder probe begun in death of beaten inmate
 By MARK SILVA
 Herald Capital Bureau

 TALLAHASSEE -- State police believe Frank Valdez, a
condemned murderer on Florida's Death Row, was
 beaten to death by prison guards, and the inquiry has
 become a murder investigation, sources told The Miami
 Herald Tuesday.
 Valdez, 36, died Saturday after a brawl in ''X-Wing,'' the
 most restrictive section of Florida's toughest prison,
 near Starke.
 Valdez battled a five-member ''extraction team'' of prison guards -- who were
 armed with a shield and electrical prod -- as they attempted to remove him from
 his cell, well-placed sources say. And the guards fought back, leaving broken ribs
 and boot marks on his body, the Gainesville state attorney says.
 With an autopsy showing that Valdez died as a result of the beating, the sources
 say, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is handling the Death Row
 investigation as a murder case.
 Neither the agency nor the Department of Corrections would discuss Valdez's
 death Tuesday evening, although prison authorities released a list of nine
 correctional officers who were placed on leave with pay during the investigation.
 Inquiry turns toward murder
 Gainesville prosecutors will meet with FDLE investigators today, as the inquiry
 turns toward a potential murder charge against one or more guards. The
 Gainesville-based state attorney covers six counties, including Bradford, where
 Florida State Prison is located.
 ''We will discuss the case at length'' with state police, said Spencer Mann, a
 spokesman for State Attorney Rod Smith.
 Valdez, sentenced to death for the 1987 shooting of Fred Griffis, a prison guard at
 Glades Correctional Institution, had lived on Death Row since 1990.
 On Death Row, a violence-prone Valdez resisted efforts by state-appointed
 attorneys to defend him. The state agency that appeals the death penalty on
 behalf of condemned prisoners declared it had a conflict of interest because
 Valdez once stabbed another Death Row inmate the agency is defending.
 History of threatening guards
 According to an attorney for the Police Benevolent Association, Valdez also
 threatened guards, earning him a bunk in X-Wing, reserved for convicts who
 threaten guards or other inmates. The Department of Corrections says Valdez
 was under ''disciplinary confinement.''
 The PBA's lawyer says the disturbance that led to Valdez's death began when a
 guard was attempting to serve Valdez with papers notifying him that he was
 getting a disciplinary report for allegedly threatening to kill another guard.
 Repeated doses of chemical spray failed to subdue Valdez as guards attempted
 to remove him from his cell, says Bill Johnson, the PBA's attorney, and Valdez
 fought back with a pepper-spray grenade the guards tossed in at him.
 Valdez was finally removed from his cell, restrained and taken for review by prison
 doctors, who cleared him to return to his cell. There, under constant watch by
 guards, he apparently died. The sheriff's office was summoned at 3 p.m. to
 transport Valdez to a local hospital, where he was declared dead.
 Nine officers at Florida State Prison are on leave with pay as the inquiry
 continues. Tuesday night, the Department of Corrections would release only their
 first initial and last names: Capt. T. Thornton; Sgts. M. Lucas, C. Brown, A.
 Lewis, R. Sauls and J.P. Griffis; and Officers D. Beck, D. Stanford and R.
 Hanson.
 Family connection?
 The Department of Corrections says it is not known if one of the guards on leave
 -- J.P. Griffis -- is related to the 40-year-old guard from Glades whom Valdez killed
 in 1987, Fred Griffis. ''We are internally trying to find out if any relationship exists,''
 said C.J. Drake, a spokesman.
 The father of Fred Griffis, the officer slain in 1987, was from the Starke area.
 But Fred Griffis' stepsister, Carolyn Martin of West Palm Beach, says she does
 not recognize the name of the guard at Florida State, J.P. Griffis.
 ''There are cousins up in that area,'' Martin said. ''There are several Griffises up
 there . . . I know there were some distant cousins with Corrections. That is the
 biggest employer up there.''
 Word that the state is eyeing possible murder charges against the guards
 troubles her: ''That, to me, would be really upsetting, because Fred was with
 Corrections. If it couldn't be done the right way, he didn't want any part of it. . . .
 ''It would be kind of heart-rending to have it go so long and then have it end up that
 any of the guards would have their lives destroyed,'' she said. ''It would be a sad
 circumstance if that is what it came down to, when [Valdez] was so close to
 going out through the letter of the law.''
 Herald staff writer Phil Long contributed to this report.



Published Thursday, July 22, 1999, in the Miami Herald
 State hopes guards reveal prisoner's killer
 By MARK SILVA and PHIL LONG
 Herald Staff Writers

 In pursuit of a murderer's murderer, investigators
 say the answer to who killed Death Row inmate
 Frank Valdez will turn on cracking the loyalty of a
 close-knit circle of prison guards to find out which
 ones beat him to death, and which simply watched.
 ''We're talking about a homicide, a murder,'' said
 Tim Moore, commissioner of the Florida
 Department of Law Enforcement. ''I hope those
 individuals involved will just, in the quietness of their
 own minds, decide: 'Look. Do I want to be a
 defendant in a murder trial, or do I want to be a
 witness in a murder trial?'
 ''I hope they will step up and do the right thing.''
 Agents of the FDLE, handling a murder
 investigation formally announced Wednesday, have
 searched the homes of seven of the nine Florida
 State Prison guards placed on leave with pay since
 the death of Valdez, 36, on Saturday.
 The FDLE said it retrieved ''items significant to the
 criminal case.'' This includes clothing and boots
 and prison records from one guard's home.
 Officially, all that the FDLE will say about the
 circumstances surrounding Valdez's death in
 ''X-Wing'' -- the cells where the hardest-core
 convicts are held -- is that a sealed medical
 examiner's report ''supports FDLE's beliefs that
 Valdez was beaten to death.''
 Not a murder, attorney says
 Valdez died some time after officers removed him
 from his cell by force. But Bill Johnson, an attorney
 for the Police Benevolent Association who is
 representing the guards, said there was no murder
 on Death Row.
 There was a brawl, he allows -- a violent
 confrontation as shielded prison guards removed a
 recalcitrant Valdez from his cell Saturday. But he
 said the guards filed reports later that day
 documenting their needed ''use of force.'' And, he
 added, that included mentioning that they heard his
 ribs cracking as two of them performed
 cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
 ''He was not an angel,'' Johnson said of Valdez.
 ''But he did not deserve to be murdered. And I don't
 think he was murdered.
 ''Our guys have been up front from the start and
 reported the injuries. We fully expected the autopsy
 to show injuries,'' Johnson said. ''There was no
 attempt to cover up anything.''
 Rod Smith, the Gainesville-based state attorney
 overseeing any prosecution, called portions of the
 guards' stories ''implausible, if not preposterous.''
 Smith said: ''The death that was inflicted in this case is a beating, and it is a
 brutal beating.''
 ''It's a hate crime,'' said Wanda Eads Valdez of West Palm Beach, who married
 the confined convict in 1994 -- Florida's first Death Row wedding. ''I knew from the
 start he was beaten to death . . . It's just devastating.''
 The state hasn't publicly singled out any suspects among the nine sidelined
 guards, whose prison experience ranges from three to 15 years.
 The senior officer in the group, Capt. Timothy A. Thornton, 33, a 14-year veteran
 of the Department of Corrections, declined to comment on the Valdez
 investigation Wednesday.
 ''I'm under counsel,'' said Thornton, reached at his home in Starke. ''I wish I could,
 but I can't answer any questions . . . I'm sorry.''
 Thornton has an arrest record of his own. He was charged with aggravated battery
 in Bradford County in March 1986, as he was starting work as a prison guard,
 state records show. His brother and another man had a fight at a bar where
 Thornton worked as a doorman. He tried to break it up. Scott Petty, 24, suffered a
 broken jaw and ribs. The case was dropped when Petty dropped charges, records
 indicate.
 State investigates vigorously
 Wednesday, more than a dozen FDLE agents were encamped at Florida State
 Prison investigating the death of Valdez, who was sentenced to the electric chair
 for the 1987 shooting of a guard from Glades Correctional Institution.
 Sometime after lunch Saturday, a guard attempted to remove Valdez from his cell
 on X-Wing. Valdez refused, Johnson says, and resisted violently.
 The inmate was sprayed with chemicals, and a pepper-spray grenade was tossed
 into his cell. When the grenade didn't detonate, Valdez used the canister in one
 hand and a knife-like pin from the grenade in the other to attack the five-guard
 extraction team that entered his cell with a shield and electric prod.
 They fought, Johnson says, and Valdez was restrained.
 Led to the prison infirmary, Valdez was examined. Johnson believes a nurse, not
 a doctor, checked the convict, but the Department of Corrections will not
 comment and the medical office at Florida State Prison isn't saying.
 Valdez was returned to another cell on X-Wing, Johnson says, where he thrashed
 around and threw himself to the floor.
 Guards monitoring him in that cell found him lying on the floor, Johnson says, and
 attempted to revive him. The FDLE says Valdez was dead by 3 p.m., when the
 Bradford County Sheriff's Office was called to come get him.
 State Attorney Smith says Valdez suffered ''multiple blunt traumas.''
 Each of the five officers involved in Valdez's ''extraction'' filed reports of their use of
 force Saturday night, Johnson says, and two noted the inmate's broken ribs.
 ''In doing CPR, one guy felt the ribs going,'' Johnson said. A second guard
 breathing into Valdez's mouth reported: ''When the officer was doing
 compressions, I heard them pop,'' Johnson said.
 ''Are there cracked ribs?'' Johnson said. ''Yeah, we told them on Saturday they
 were going to find cracked ribs.''
 The FDLE will not say why search warrants were served Tuesday night at the
 homes of just seven of the nine guards temporarily relieved of duties.
 No deals, spokeswoman says
 FDLE spokeswoman Liz Hirst cautioned against reading into that some sort of
 deal afoot for two of the guards. None have been offered immunity against
 prosecution, she said.
 Johnson said investigators have given him no indication ''that they have singled
 out any one person.''
 He added that the FDLE could have had the clothing and boots seized with
 search warrants ''for the asking.'' Of Corrections Department papers seized at one
 home, he says: ''It's not unusual that nine guys who work for Corrections are
 going to have DOC stuff around the house.'' After the guards filed reports on the
 incident Saturday night, he says, one may have taken a copy home.
 The FBI offered assistance to the state on Monday.
 ''But at this point it is still an investigation being conducted by the FDLE with help
 from the state attorney's office,'' Hirst said. ''It is a homicide on state property, and
 it seems that is where it is going to stay.''
 Until answers are found, a storm of questions over Starke is casting shadows on
 a correctional community that prides itself on professionalism.
 ''It's like a huge hurricane that's stationary,'' the PBA's Johnson says. ''It's just
 kind of sitting there doing a lot of damage, but no one knows where it's going to
 go.''
 The six-county court circuit of pine woods, prisons and state college campuses
 may be a tough place in which to prosecute one or more of the thousands of
 correctional officers who work in the many state prisons of Northeast Florida. The
 FDLE's Moore acknowledges it will be difficult to impanel a jury.
 ''I don't have a lot of sympathy for Mr. Valdez, to be honest with you. He was a
 convicted killer,'' Moore said. ''But I do have a lot of respect for the rules we play
 by in a civilized society . . . Regardless of how despicable some men may be,
 they don't deserve to die this way.''
 Herald researchers Tina Cummings and Liz Donovan contributed to this report.



Published Friday, July 23, 1999, in the Miami Herald
 Inmate allegedly threatened guard
 Conflict before fatal incident is detailed in prison reports
 By MARK SILVA
 Herald Capital Bureau
 Hours before inmate Frank Valdez died at Florida State Prison last Saturday,
 corrections officers tried to remove him from his cell to search it after he
 threatened to kill a guard, according to prison reports released Thursday.
 The target of Valdez's death threat: Sgt. Montrez Lucas, housing supervisor that
 morning on X-Wing, the toughest hold on Death Row.
 ''I am going to kill your . . . ass. I'm a gangster,'' Valdez told Lucas, according to
 Lucas' report of his attempt to approach Valdez with disciplinary papers Saturday.
 The Florida Department of Law Enforcement believes prison guards beat Valdez
 to death. The Department of Corrections released reports of the officers who
 fought and restrained Valdez. The reports say Valdez first refused to leave his cell
 on X-Wing at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday -- the start of a saga that ended in his
 death at about 3:15 pm.
 Capt. Timothy Thornton, a tobacco-chewing, tattooed prison veteran known by his
 neighbors for a trim lawn and kindness to his daughters, sprayed Valdez with a
 ''fogger.'' Minutes later tossing a pepper-spray grenade that failed to detonate in
 the cell. ''F--- you and the chemical agents,'' Valdez said, according to Thornton's
 report.
 Officers were summoned to ''dress out'' for an extraction from Cell X1203 at 10
 a.m. At 10:25, the team went in, officer Raymon Hanson carrying a shield
 equipped with an ''Electrical Restraint Device'' -- basically an attached stun gun.
 As they forced Valdez against the toilet, Hanson reported, Valdez tried to hit him
 with the pepper-spray grenade guards had tossed in. Pinned, Valdez got three
 3-second jolts of the shield's shock. By 10:35, Valdez was handcuffed, his legs
 chained, according to reports.
 Sgt. Charles Brown: ''I struck him in his back and right side several times with my
 left fist and with staff assistance forced him to the floor.''
 Sgt. J.P. Griffis, who reported getting kicked in the groin by Valdez: ''I struck
 inmate Valdez twice in the facial area.''
 Sgt. Robert Sauls: ''I delivered a palm strike to the right side of his face. I placed
 my right foot on the right side of his neck and face area, forcing him back to the
 floor. I maintained my hold . . .''
 Sgt. Andrew Lewis: ''I applied handcuffs and leg irons.''
 Valdez was taken to the clinic and checked by a nurse.
 Later, when Valdez was returned to his cell, Thornton reported checking on him at
 2 p.m.: Valdez fell backward, striking a bunk bed, and Thornton asked him if he
 was all right. Valdez, Thornton reported, said yes.
 At 3, Officer Dewey Beck checked on him, saw him fall, and asked if he was OK.
 Beck said Valdez said yes.
 At 3:15, Beck found Valdez lying on the floor, not breathing. Sgts. Brown and
 Lewis tried to revive him with cardiopulmonary resuscitation. As Brown started
 CPR, Lewis reported, ''I heard what appeared to be a loud pop.'' Brown said he felt
 the ribs break.
 Along with the prison guards' report, the state released Thursday night piles of
 paperwork from Valdez's two decades of confinement in Florida's prisons. The
 documents show that the warden at Florida State Prison deemed Valdez and
 others ''security risks' in April 1998, limiting them to non-contact visitations. April
 29, an officer reported Valdez invited him into his cell ''and he would show him
 what disrespect was.'' Another officer told him to settle down and Valdez said:
 ''Open this cell door and I'll kill you.''
 Gov. Jeb Bush said Thursday that the investigation of Valdez's death will be
 turned over swiftly to the state attorney responsible for prosecuting anyone.
 Two sisters of Valdez, Frances Collado and Joyce Hernandez, have enlisted
 Miami attorney Ellis Rubin to ask the federal government to take over the inquiry.
 Rubin is asking U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate apparent civil
 rights violations.
 ''We will not only demand that the state allow the FBI to take over the
 investigation, but we will also seek the intervention of the U.S. Justice
 Department,'' Rubin said Thursday. ''The state of Florida should not be able to
 investigate its own criminal activity, similar to the fox guarding the hen-house.''
 Search warrants served at seven of the guards' homes this week retrieved
 clothing, along with prison records taken home by one officer. A significant
 amount of blood was found on some clothing, a well-placed source says.
 The cell where Valdez died was ''cleaned'' before FDLE investigators arrived
 Saturday, according to a source quoted by the Gainesville Sun. The agency was
 summoned at 4:30 pm. Some of the nine officers also met as a group before the
 FDLE arrived, the Sun reported.
 Of the nine officers involved, only Lucas has been suspended previously for
 abusing an inmate -- for 60 days in 1995 when he was a guard at nearby New
 River Correctional Institution. The suspension followed complaints in 1994 of
 rampant abuse.
 Amnesty International, voicing ''concern over methods of restraint and force used
 in many prisons across the U.S.,'' is challenging the use of chemical sprays,
 pepper grenade and shock shield that officers used in attempts to remove Valdez
 from his cell.
 In a letter to Florida Corrections Secretary Michael Moore, Amnesty
 International's Susan Lee wrote this week: ''Any torture, ill-treatment or excessive
 force'' used against Valdez warrants prompt justice.
 Bush said Thursday that beatings such as Valdez's are ''incredibly isolated''
 cases in a ''professional'' prison system of 25,000 employees and 65,000
 inmates. Bush recruited Corrections Secretary Moore from South Carolina earlier
 this year.
 For years, Bush says, the Department of Corrections was more protective about
 problems on its own turf -- reluctant to let other agencies investigate. But that
 ended in February with a memorandum of understanding that put the FDLE in
 charge of investigating suspicious deaths in state prisons.
 ''Historically, the department was much more insular and much more resistant to
 allow for outside people to come in,'' Bush said. ''The best way to protect the
 integrity and the good name of the people who work in the Department of
 Corrections is to have a quick response.''
 Asked if X-Wing has outlived its usefulness, Bush said:
 ''I will take the advice of Secretary Moore, who is someone I have enormous
 confidence in . . . If he believes it's important to have as a tool for discipline and to
 maintain order amongst the worst of the worst of Florida's prisoners, then I'll be
 very supportive of it.''
 
 
 
           Click here to read poem FRANK
             A poem written by fellow death row prisoner Anthony LaMarca

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