Former Tutwiler corrections officer found not guilty

Published 12:16pm Wednesday, June 18, 2014

After the former warden of Tutwiler Prison for Women admitted to threatening to take away “privileges” from a death row inmate in order to get the “truth” about alleged incidents of kissing and inappropriate touching of the inmate by a corrections officer, an Elmore County jury found the former officer not guilty of custodial sexual misconduct Wednesday morning.

Defense attorney Richard White, who represented Matthew Hall, said the case against his client was “disgusting, disturbing and unacceptable” in his closing statement to the jury.

“This was a joke,” White said.

The jury must have agreed since it only took less than a half hour to return the not guilty verdict.

Once the verdict was read, Hall’s wife jumped over the railing in the court room to hug her husband.

In a statement from the Alabama Department of Corrections, it noted the disappointment in the verdict, but it reiterates its “zero-tolerance policy” for custodial sexual misconduct.

“If custodial sexual misconduct occurs one time, it is one time too many,” according to the statement. “The ADOC continually assesses its investigation procedures and will continue to do so to ensure we are delivering the most accurate information to the local district attorney for prosecution, and will be proactive in creating a safe environment by making adjustments and improvements in accordance with PREA standards and best practices recommended by The Moss Group. This verdict will not stop us from enforcing our zero-tolerance policy.”

The accusations of Hall’s alleged misconduct in 2011 came via a “snitch letter” which was sent to former prison warden Frank Albright. The letter said that Hall and inmate Christie Scott had kissed, that he had touched her breasts and he had put her hand over his crotch area.

Then came the questions of when was the letter written, when was the investigation started, when the alleged incidents take place, were there witnesses and where were their interviews with investigator Kelley Smith?

Smith testified Tuesday that she had interviewed six people which were mentioned in the “snitch letter” as well as the 11-page narrative Scott produced after being allegedly threatened to not only have her personal items removed from her 6-foot by 9-foot cell but to also have her visitation privileges with her family taken away. But there was not record of the five interviews or dates of those interviews.

During the preinterview phase with Hall, his attorney contended that Smith threatened to have his client arrested and put in jail without bond if he didn’t confess to the misconduct. Smith testified she never said that and that she only told Hall that she would let the court know he was cooperative should he give his confession.

“It was shoddy police work,” White told the jury during his closing statement.

– Herald intern Codie Smith contributed to this report.

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