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New Orleans Times Picayune: Louisiana death row inmates testify to ‘indescribable’ heat at Angola prison

By Lauren McGaughy, | The Times Picayune 

August 06, 2013

Two inmates from Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola testified to what they called “indescribable” heat levels on the death row tiers, during the first day of a federal trial in Baton Rouge on Monday. The suit was filed by three offenders who said preexisting medical conditions put them at a higher risk for heat-related illness and death.

But the most telling testimony Monday was arguably that of Deputy Warden Norwood, who took over the role in charge of the death row tiers since February 2011. Norwood said she denied the inmates’ initial requests to be provided with relief from the heat because none of them had previously exhibited heat-related illnesses.

“My understanding is they were hot and they wanted air-conditioning,” Norwood said, claiming requests filed in 2012 for relief did not mention health conditions or how they related to heat concerns.

Nilay Vora, counsel for the plaintiffs, then read Code and Ball’s requests, which both raised concerns about heat-related feelings of sickness. The documents also request air-conditioning or “any other cooling system” to bring the heat down to “reasonable levels.”

Upon questioning, Norwood added she did not place the inmates on a “heat precaution” inmate list after the requests because none were on psychotropic drugs.

However, James Magee, the suit’s third plaintiff who did not appear in court Monday, is currently taking anti-depressants. Magee was convicted in 2009 of the shooting deaths of his wife, Adrienne, and his 5-year-old son, Zach, near Mandeville, as well as the attempted murder of his two daughters.

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During her testimony, Norwood also said she had no prior knowledge of the intent to install the window awnings and said she was told but not consulted about the wall soaking exercise, which was ultimately unsuccessful because of low water-pressure.

These steps would not have been taken without the approval of Warden Cain, Norwood added. Cain, who was present in the courtroom, did not testify Monday.

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