SAN FRANCISCO — A federal jury on Tuesday cleared seven guards at Pelican Bay State Prison of allegations that they used excessive force on a convicted murderer.
The guards contended that they took appropriate measures to subdue the inmate, who was resisting them.
Lawyers for the guards, who were sued by Thomas Brissette, said the inmate had refused to move when he was ordered in 1991 to share a cell with another inmate.
Brissette's lawyer, Michael Gevertz, argued that his client had asked not to share a cell with the inmate, a known gang member. Gevertz said guards broke up a fight that erupted almost immediately between the two men by shooting Brissette with rubber pellets, shocking him with a stun gun, clubbing him, then tying him up and dropping him three feet onto a litter on a concrete floor.
He also accused the guards of slamming Brissette's head into walls and using racial slurs.
Deputy Atty. Gen. Susan Myster, who represented six of the guards, said Brissette immediately attacked the other, much smaller inmate and that the guards needed to use force to separate the two.
She denied that Brissette had been tied, beaten or dropped and said he suffered only minor injuries.
Guards at the prison, near Crescent City and the Oregon border, have faced accusations of brutality before. In May, an officer was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for shooting an inmate after a fight in 1994. Two others have been indicted on federal charges of conspiring to arrange attacks on prisoners from 1992 to 1995.
A court-appointed monitor reported in May that the prison failed to move quickly or firmly enough against guards and other staff who used excessive force.