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Barksdale lawyers battle dismissal

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com · 340-2445

Unanswered questions.

That's what representatives for Farron Barksdale's family said remain after his death.

Attorneys for Barksdale's mother and the Southern Center for Human Rights included their questions in a response filed Friday in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

The center and Mary Barksdale filed an open records act lawsuit against Department of Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen. The defendant filed a motion for the court to dismiss the case, which led to Friday's response by the plaintiffs.

Barksdale, 32, was serving life without parole for killing Athens police officer Tony Mims and Sgt. Larry Russell in 2004.

Limestone County authorities transferred Barksdale to Kilby Correctional Facility on Aug. 8. Four days later the staff found him unresponsive in his cell and transported him to Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery.

He died 10 days later when the family opted to remove him from life support.

The DOC issued a press release that said Barksdale died of complications from bronchopneumonia with contributory factors of hyperthermia, an abnormally high body temperature, and coagulopathy, a blood clotting disorder.

There was no evidence of external or internal trauma, a DOC press release stated.

Bruises

However, the autopsy report noted bruises.

Dr. Kenneth Snell of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences told The Associated Press some bruises were related to medical treatment in a hospital and his deteriorating health. Bruises on his hips were older and larger and could not be explained, Snell said, but he added that the bruises were not linked to Barksdale’s death.

The response listed five questions DOC should answer regarding Barksdale’s death.

  • What caused the unexplained bruising?

  • Did the staff adequately monitor Barksdale?

  • If Barksdale complained of any illness, did prison officials respond reasonably?

  • Was Barksdale unconscious for a long period of time before being discovered?

  • Were appropriate steps taken to revive him?

    The response states that the court should deny the dismissal request and order DOC to grant access to prison incident reports, investigative reports and other records.

    DOC spokesman Brian Corbett has said an inmate’s file and investigative reports are not public record.

    The plaintiffs’ response states that incident reports and investigative reports are two different documents, and according to state law, are public record.

    “Defendant cannot shield important public documents from view simply by placing a copy in the inmate’s file,” the response states.

    Both Georgia and Florida make prison incident reports available to the public, the response states.

    The response also states that the plaintiffs have met the state Supreme Court’s standard for obtaining investigative reports because there would be undue hardship from DOC’s non-disclosure.

    The information in those reports is not available from any other source.

    Jake Watson, one of the attorneys representing Mary Barksdale, has said the medical intake records at Kilby do not note Barksdale having any health problems.

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