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Housing Inmates Who Make Death Threats... with their Intended VictimsTim King Salem-News.com
"I don't want to be in there with that guy"
(SALEM) - Note from Editor: due to miscommunication in the communication of this story to our newsroom, errors were made that are being corrected as of 2 May, 2012.
Why did Oregon officials fail to report the beating death of a prison inmate at the Snake River Correctional Facility (SRCI) in Eastern Oregon last year? Clayton Howard, an inmate who nearly died in an identical situation, says he knows why.
Another Costly Mistake
Chris Soren Lange was 54 when he was fatally attacked last year. He was assaulted on 21 May 2010, and died from head injuries, after failing to recover from a comatose state, several days later. He had been in prison for 21-years, serving the latter half of his sentence in the Two Rivers Correctional Facility in Umatilla, Oregon. He was convicted of having been involved in a contract Murder and had only 90 days left to serve. Though no exact details were available, Lange is also said to have been a confidential federal informant.
According to the Albany Democrat-Herald article titled Linn convict killed in prison:
Ten years earlier, when Lange was beginning his sentence, he had an altercation with the man who now stands accused in his murder: James 'Jimmy' Samuel DeFrank, Jr.
While not overlooking the severity of the violent crime, Clayton Howard says DeFrank was played by prison officials; a wiry, serious inmate serving a life sentence for Murder, this man now likely headed for Death Row, is described as a lifer who doesn't issue empty threats. Howard says there was ample knowledge of DeFrank's death threats against Lange, adding that Lange had repeatedly been assured by officials during his time in prison, that he would not be placed in a facility with the inmate who had sworn to kill him.
There is no question that placing these two in the same unit amounted to a serious security risk. The same week that The Oregonian finally caught wind of this incident, last August, guards at the same prison, SRCI, fired at inmates during an altercation in the recreation yard and that incident led to an overhaul of prison tower procedures. In fact it was that incident that led to, or at least coincided with, the news of Lange's death leaking out.
Howard, who is presently in the Two Rivers facility where Lange had spent his sentence, said it was shocking to see Lange transferred to a sure death sentence. The inmate was Murdered within 24-hours of his arrival at Snake River, and the suspect is DeFrank. He was attacked and killed in SRCI's Complex Two recreation yard, according to a press release issued by Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris.
Oregon Fails to Disclose Murder
The staff at The Oregonian heard about the inmate murder three months after it happened. Both SRCI and the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) failed to notify the public about the man's violent death. In Richard Cockle's 23 August 2011 report, Inmate was beaten to death at Snake River prison near Ontario in May, Jeanine M. Hohn, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Corrections in Salem, discussed the undisclosed killing on state grounds.
Inmates receive the local Ontario, Oregon newspaper via subscription, and Clayton Howard says there was no local mention of the death, contrary to what state official Hohn states "may" have happened. News releases are either issued, or they are not, and there is no reference to the death in any DOC press release records. The information from Hohn; a responsive DOC representative who seems to do her best to answer questions from the media, seems very unclear and non-specific in this case; in spite of the fact that it involves both the death of a man, and now I am told, a new wrongful death lawsuit, that will be another costly nugget for Oregon's taxpayers.
No criminal charges were filed against DeFrank until after The Oregonian reported the otherwise undisclosed Murder, more than three months later.
The crime happened in May, The Oregonian learned of it in August, and in September criminal charges against DeFrank were filed, very interesting.
Anna Canzano wrote about the case on 14 October 2010 on The Inside Scoop from a Portland TV journalist, in an article titled: Oregon inmate indicted on murder charges:
The one man who can most closely identify with Lange's fatal situation, Clayton Howard, says the reason that officials at SRCI and the DOC failed to report the death, is, "... because they set it up by sending Lange to where DeFrank was, where they knew Lange would be killed, and they didn't want to draw attention to it, simple as that".
He recalls Lange saying, "I don't want to be in there with that guy" and worrying about having to confront his now longtime enemy.
Clayton Howard says he was shown photos of Mr. Lange after the beating death, and he described him as "unrecognizable" and adds that Lange, "looked like his head was a watermelon that somebody just smashed". According to witnesses, Jimmy DeFrank attacked a man who offered no resistance. Lange had been losing weight and appeared somewhat gaunt at the time of the attack according to Clayton, who said, "Apparently it was just one punch, and Chris Lange was down. After that Jimmy just kept going and there was nothing Lange could do to defend himself. There just wasn't much left of him after that."
Clayton Howard is ideally suited to talk about the case for three specific reasons:
To clarify, in addition to the lawsuits Howard and filed and won, he has also filed hundreds of Tort claims on behalf of inmates. He also has a distinct court victory from the early 90's that allows the cases he submits to almost always lead to payments for the inmate-plaintiffs.
Due to his successful record of litigating against the state on behalf of other inmates, Howard has earned a complex reputation in prison. Officials know that if they place him in 'the hole', he is in a closer proximity to inmates receiving mistreatment, and this typically leads to new suits. Among prison officials, he would likely earn the "least popular" award.
An inmate named William 'Dollar Bill' Thomas; a gang member from Southern California serving multiple life sentences for Murder, had a beef with Howard over attention the two African-American inmates were receiving from a white female corrections officer. Thomas, who had stabbed or 'shanked' four different inmates in the past, took a vow to kill Clayton Howard, he even told a corrections officer about his plan to stab Howard to death.
The corrections officer, William Coleman, says he was shocked to have 'Dollar Bill' confess a plan to commit Murder, and asked him not to carry out the act he threatened. Coleman was even more shocked when Thomas suggested that he had "permission" to take Howard's life.
Coleman then went to his superiors to report the death threat against Howard. He says the senior officials casually dismissed the information, repeatedly. Again, this story has been the focus of more than one past report, links to all of the related stories are below.
Clayton Howard was stabbed by Thomas when he was eating his dinner in the prison chow hall. The incident was recorded on videotape and Coleman says it took far longer than it should have for officers to intervene and subdue Thomas.
Every person in the corrections field that I have discussed this case with, says it is incredible and very suspicious that Oregon's DOC would allow a convict with a violent history like Thomas, to exist among the main population. Almost any convict with a repeated pattern of stabbing other inmates (all of his victims were also black) would be kept in some type of solitary confinement.
But not in Oregon. There seems to be a pattern in this state, of corrections officials sending inmates into harm's way intentionally, by pairing them with inmates who sport deadly vendettas.
Howard survived the stabbing only because the ice pick Thomas used in the attack, hit a rib; it's why his internal organs didn't suffer irreparable harm. One week from today, Howard's lawsuit against the state of Oregon over the preventable stabbing, goes back to court.
It's hard to consider Clayton Howard "lucky" for receiving a life-threatening knife wound, however he's very fortunate in comparison to Chris Lange.
While he is far from helpless, Clayton Howard says he has witnessed things inside of the Oregon corrections system that would turn a person's hair gray. But humiliation, and physical and mental abuse, still pale in comparison to the capital crime of Murder. He hopes that Jimmy DeFrank takes his Murder case to court to draw attention to the practice of placing inmates with sworn death threats against others, together with their would-be victims.
__________________________________________________________________Previous Installments in this series:
Dec-19-2011: Does Oregon's Government Simply Hate Black People? - Tim King Salem-News.com
Jul-27-2011: DNA Evidence Should Free Oregon Inmate Terrence Kimble from Prison
May-04-2011 Is There An Oregon Attorney Who Cares About Civil Rights?Tim King Salem-News.com
May-31-2011: Snitch Sheets, Unresolved Murder and Severe Tobacco Crimes - Tim King Salem-News.com
Mar-10-2011: Reader Commentary: Can Oregon Government Change its Spots? - Salem-News.com
Mar-10-2011: Civil Rights Case in Salem Demonstrates the Power of a 911 Call - Tim King Salem-News.com
Mar-09-2011: Civil Rights Under the Gavel of Justice - Tim King Salem-News.com
Mar-08-2011: Oregon State Hospital and Staff Member Face Racism Charges Over Employee Termination - Tim King Salem-News.com
Mar-04-2011: How Far will Oregon Legal Officials go to Prevent Due Process? - Tim King Salem-News.com
Dec-27-2010: The 'Trickle Down' Effect of Whistleblower Retaliation - Tim King Salem-News.com
Dec-01-2010: Oregon Political Prisoner Being Stripped of Phone Use - Tim King Salem-News.com
Nov-25-2010: Tim King and Ruth Kovacs on KBOO's Prison Pipeline (AUDIO) - Salem-News.com
Nov-22-2010: Tim King on KBOO FM's Prison Pipeline Tonight - Salem-News.com
Nov-16-2010: Federal Mail Tampering at Oregon State Prison? - Tim King Salem-News.com
Oct-29-2010: A Witness With No Credibility - Tim King Salem-News.com
Oct-27-2010: Inmate's Life Threatened by Staff at SRCI - Tim King Salem-News.com
Oct-21-2010: Oregon Inmate Stabbing Victim Attacked Second Time - Tim King Salem-News.com
Sep-10-2010: Demonstrators Call Oregon State Hospital's Employment Practices Racist, Unacceptable - Tim King Salem-News.com
Aug-28-2010: Observations on Michael Francke's Murder, Frank Gable's Conviction, & the paid Confession of 'Shorty' Harden - Salem-News.com
Aug-25-2010: Whistleblower Blues: Man in the Hole - Tim King Salem-News.com
Aug-11-2010: Demonstrators Protest Local Newspaper Over Racism - Tim King Salem-News.com
Aug-05-2010: Evidence Shows Oregon Inmate Was Falsely Convicted - Tim King Salem-News.com
Aug-03-2010: Chicken Night at the Oregon State Penitentiary - Tim King Salem-News.com
Jul-21-2010: Eyes on the Oregon State Prison: Voicing Concern for an Inmate's Life - Tim King Salem-News.com
Jul-14-2010: State Prison Whistleblower Says Oregon Corrections is Blocking Federal Mail - Tim King Salem-News.com
Jul-05-2010: A Denial of Civil Rights- Oregon's Collaboration in Racism Whistleblower Retaliation - Tim King Salem-News.com
Jun-26-2010: Getting Refamiliarized with the Murder of Michael Francke - Tim King Salem-News.com
Jun-23-2010: Local Media Downplayed Former Prison Guard's Struggle Against Racism - Tim King Salem-News.com
Jun-18-2010: Exposé: Skeletons Falling Out of the Closet of Oregon Corrections - Tim King Salem-News.com
Jun-17-2010: Scott McAlister: Child Porn-Related Conviction and Practicing Law - Tim King Salem-News.com
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