Court says prisoner can seek damages from jailers Convicted rapist says he was denied law book

September 07, 1997|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A prisoner who has filed 17 lawsuits against state correctional officials since 1991 will get a chance to argue for compensatory and punitive damages from them because they refused to give him the law book he ordered by mail.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled Friday that Earl Wilkins, serving 25 years for a Baltimore rape and assault conviction, can seek damages from corrections officials because they violated his rights by neither giving him his Maryland Evidence Handbook, reimbursing the $75 he paid for it, nor promptly addressing various aspects of his complaint.

Wilkins claimed that a correctional officer refused to let him use her pen to sign for receipt of his mail Nov. 30, 1992, and sent him away without the book.

A corrections spokeswoman said she had not seen the ruling and could not comment on it.

The ruling overturns Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Clayton R. Greene Jr.'s dismissal of the case. Greene ruled that because officials of the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup had reimbursed Wilkins a week before the scheduled March 1997 court trial, the case was moot.

But Wilkins claimed that the reimbursement did not free his jailers from responsibility for their inappropriate and delayed handling of his complaint, for which he is seeking $800 in damages. The appeals court agreed, noting that state officials are not immune from the damages claim because they did not follow the administrative procedures for the claim.

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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