Boot camp death


Tuesday, November 28th 2006, 12:27 pm
By: News On 6


PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) _ Seven former juvenile boot camp guards and a nurse have been charged with aggravated manslaughter in the death of a boy whose rough handling by the guards was videotaped, a special prosecutor said Tuesday.

Martin Lee Anderson, 14, collapsed on the exercise yard at the Bay County sheriff's camp in Panama City on Jan. 5. Guards said he was uncooperative and refused to continue participating in exercises that were part of the camp's intake processes.

Anderson died early the next morning in Pensacola.

If convicted, the former guards and the nurse who watched the altercation could face up to 30 years in prison.

Waylon Graham, the attorney for Lt. Charles Helms, the officer who held the highest rank among those charged, said he had expected the charges. He said his client would surrender by the end of day.

Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Anderson's parents, was in Panama City with the family Tuesday and didn't immediately return a call for comment.

Bob Pell, an attorney who represents former guard Joseph Walsh II, said he hadn't heard about charge against his client.

``I didn't anticipate it. I was hoping cooler heads would prevail, but we will deal with this as it comes down. We understood the political pressure that was brought to bear,'' he said.

The surveillance tape showed guards kneeing and punching the boy repeatedly during a 30-minute encounter. The footage helped spark protests in the state capital, the elimination of the military-style boot camp system and the resignation of the state's top law enforcement officer.

An initial autopsy by medical examiner Dr. Charles Siebert found Anderson died of complications of sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder.

A second autopsy by Dr. Vernard Adams, the medical examiner for Hillsborough County, found Anderson's death was caused by suffocation due to the actions of the guards.

He said the suffocation was caused by hands blocking the boy's mouth, as well as the ``forced inhalation of ammonia fumes'' that caused his vocal cords to spasm, blocking Anderson's upper airway.

The guards had said in an incident report that they used ammonia capsules five times on Anderson to gain his cooperation.

Siebert has consistently stood by his findings.

Gov. Jeb Bush, who appointed the prosecutor after the state attorney for Bay County asked to be removed, said Tuesday he was following the case closely.

``We also hope that once the process is completed that Martin Lee Anderson's family will have the answers to the questions that they legitimately have,'' Bush said.

Anderson's family has sued the state Department of Juvenile Justice, which oversaw the boot camp system, and the Bay County Sheriff's Office, which ran the camp, seeking more than $40 million in damages.