Family wants answers in death of prison inmate
Published: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
The family of a Florida State Prison inmate who died earlier this month wants to know exactly what happened to Arthur Graham. They particularly want to know why they were not notified that he had sustained a catastrophic head injury until after he died, which was at least two days after he was injured.
"All we know is that he died in a prison on Jan. 11," said Graham's brother, Bill Graham, who lives in St. Johns County. "The funeral director brought to my attention that his head was all busted open on the back side. The funeral director told me right then and there that there was foul play."
On Friday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed that it was investigating the death of Arthur Graham, 50, under a memorandum of understanding to investigate all inmate deaths within the Department of Corrections.
"We're investigating that there was an inmate altercation against another inmate," FDLE spokeswoman Sharon Gogerty said. No suspects were publicly identified by late Friday.
Gogerty confirmed that Arthur Graham was the inmate who died but said she could provide no additional information about circumstances surrounding his death and called it an ongoing investigation.
The agency's findings about Arthur Graham's death will be forwarded to the State Attorney's Office for the 8th Judicial Circuit, Gogerty said.
State Attorney Bill Cervone said he had been notified about the investigation and was told that initial reports described it as an incident involving an inmate-on-inmate attack. He said he was awaiting information from FDLE to provide more details.
Bill Graham said that among the questions his family has for prison officials is why the news of Arthur's death took such a circuitous route to get to the next of kin. Although there are nearly a dozen family members listed on Arthur Graham's visitor list at FSP, news of his death was delivered in a phone call to John and Ethel Throp, the in-laws of another brother, Robert Graham.
"They got a call from a prison higher up, not a chaplain," Bill Graham said. "I have probably made 30 calls and all I am being told is that nobody has no comment on anything."
What galled Bill Graham most of all was that the family did not have an opportunity to say goodbye.
"If he was in a fight and then he was fighting for his life for two or three days, we should have been notified so we could have got over there, and we should know something more about it by now," Bill Graham said.
The Graham family has been working with Randall Berg, executive director of the Miami-based Florida Justice Institute, to try to piece together the last few days of Arthur Graham's life.
Much of Arthur Graham's adult life was spent behind bars.
According to state prison records, he was 20 years old, apparently living in St. Johns County in 1975, when he was sentenced to five years in prison for grand theft. Two years after being released, he was in trouble again and was eventually sentenced to 30 years for resisting an officer with violence, battery on a law enforcement officer and failure to appear in court. Three years into the sentence, he escaped for a day and received an additional three years in prison. According to state records, except for the last two days of his life when he was at North Florida Reception and Medical Center, Arthur Graham spent all but two of the past 15 years at Florida State Prison in Raiford.
Although Arthur Graham was close to being released (tentatively on June 23), he was having a tough time staying out of trouble. During 2005 alone he lost 48 days of gain time for three separate incidents, two involving disorderly conduct and one an assault.
Prison officials said Arthur Graham's disciplinary problems resulted in his loss of many privileges, including being allowed to have visitors.
Family members recall that his last visit from a relative was in 2002 following the death of his mother.
Prison records show Arthur Graham's last visitor was a sister who saw him in 2001.
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