Courts & Crime

In Tamms: Plaintiff's plight -- 'almost impossible for judicial system to untangle these things'

BENTON — Prisoner Ozzie Pickett waited 10 years for his day in court. When it finally came this past March, the jury did not believe him.

During a three-day civil trial where Pickett was the plaintiff and acted as his own attorney, jurors rejected all allegations filed in a 40-count complaint against guards and staff at the Tamms Correction Center, claiming they severely beat or allowed mistreatment of Pickett from 1998 to 2002.

The guards and staff members denied the allegations.

Neither Pickett's testimony nor prison medical reports of his injuries swayed the jury.

Pickett, after a decade of court delays, faced the legal hurdle of proving without witnesses other than himself that he was the victim of a series of sadistic beatings. Just bringing the case to trial involved meeting requirements that are more stringent than for an average citizen.

"He's really got no rights at all. In reality, you're pretty much at the mercy of your jailers," said attorney Bill Schroeder, a professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale Law School who specializes in federal law.

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