On June 8, 1999, David Lewis, a former guard at the maximum security Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, was indicted by a federal grand jury for shooting an inmate in the chest on June 20, 1994.
Lewis, 51, was charged with shooting Harry Long, who survived but was severely injured. The indictment charged Lewis with violating Long’s civil rights by shooting him.
Long was engaged in a fistfight with another inmate when Lewis shot him from about 100 yards away.
Lewis went on trial in February 2000 in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.
At the trial, the prosecution presented evidence suggesting that Lewis was abusive toward inmates and contended that he intentionally shot Long because he was part of a group of guards who engaged in a pattern of brutality at the prison. The prosecution contended that Lewis chose Long as a target in the mistaken belief that he was a child molester.
Lewis denied intentionally shooting Long and said he fired only after Long and the other inmate continued fighting despite orders to stop and only after first firing a warning shot. He said he was trying to protect the other inmate from injury.
Lewis was convicted by a jury on February 14, 2000. On May 17, 2000, he was sentenced to seven years and nine months in prison and taken into custody.
The conviction was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on August 26, 2001. The court ruled that the trial judge should have allowed the defense to present evidence that the shooting was deemed justifiable and consistent with California Department of Corrections policy by a state prison shooting review board. Lewis was released on bail on August 29, 2001.
At a retrial, the prison shooting review board report was allowed into evidence. Lewis was acquitted by a jury on July 6, 2005.
– Maurice Possley