Pubdate: Nov 27, 1998
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 1998 Associated Press.


Los Angeles-As independent panel concluded that two dozen shootings of
inmates at Corcoran State Prison were unjustified, it was reported Thursday.

In a report released Wednesday, The Select Shooting Review Panel found that
24 of 31 inmate shootings at Corcoran from 1989 to 1995-seven of them
fatal-involved an unjustified use of force.

The panel also said the State Department of Corrections' entire system for
investigating and prosecuting prison shootings is flawed.

The 53-page report was released at the Los Angeles Times' request under the
state Public Records Act.

The panel, comprising two former police chiefs and a retired FBI agent, was
appointed by Corrections Director Cal Terhune to look into the shootings.

Terhune said he was troubled by the findings but viewed the probe as

"There is no way to do it without us taking a risk. And that's the only way
you're going to change something," Terhune said.

Sen. Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, who was co-chairman of earlier
legislative hearings on the San Joaquin Valley prison, said the panel's
findings proved that state officials were irresponsible in their handling of

"We had a shooting gallery going on at Corcoran and the blue-ribbon panel
basically verified it. That's incredible,'" he said.

The report criticized the process of investigating inmate shootings.

"There is neither fact nor perception that such incidents are scrutinized by
anyone outside of the prison system and no one is required to render a
decision concerning the legality of a shooting," the panel determined.

State prison guards did not understand which situations dictated the use of
deadly force, the panel said, and the policy on use of such force was poorly

Terhune said the department has begun steps to restrict the use of deadly
force, provide more training and beef up oversight and investigations of the

The incidents reviewed included 1994 death of inmate Preston Tate, who was
killed by a guard while fighting in the recreation yard.

The Tate case was the subject of a four-year FBI probe at Corcoran. It led
to a federal indictment of eight officers accused of setting up fights for
"amusement and blood sport." A trial was scheduled for next year.

Earlier this month, the state agreed pay $825,000 to settle a civil rights
lawsuit filed on behalf of Tate's family.

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Checked-by: Rolf Ernst