Family of inmate who died in beating sues Md. for $130 million

Associated Press Writer

BALTIMORE- The family of a jail inmate who died after a beating by correctional officers is seeking $130 million in damages from the state in a wrongful death lawsuit filed Friday.

Raymond Smoot, 51, was in custody May 14 on a petty theft charge at the state-run Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center where he got into an altercation with officers. Attorneys say Smoot was beaten until his skull was cracked and his eyes and face were crushed and swollen beyond recognition.

"You can't understand how one human being can go after another human being like these guys did," said Leonard Orman, one of the family's attorneys.

Eight correctional officers were fired after Smoot's death, and three of them were charged in August with second-degree murder. The three, Dameon Woods, 33, Nathan Colbert, 42, and James Hatcher, 43, have pleaded not guilty.

The lawsuit names the state agencies responsible for corrections and pretrial detention, plus an unspecified number of individual officers. It seeks $30 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages.

Central Booking, which opened in 1995, has been repeatedly criticized for its overcrowded and unhealthy conditions. It was designed to process up to 45,000 people a year but has handled more than double that amount.

Smoot's family contends that overcrowding, inadequately trained staff, poor management and understaffing directly contributed to his death and that officials did nothing to remedy the conditions.

The death also led to an FBI civil rights investigation.

"Our actions in the aftermath of this terrible incident were swift and decisive," said Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the state corrections system.

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