The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 30, 2009

DOC to turn over Barksdale records to media today

By Karen Middleton

The Department of Corrections announced Monday that it would make available for viewing by the media all prison records concerning the death of Farron Barksdale at 9 a.m. today.

Barksdale, who was found comatose in his cell at Kilby Correctional Facility just three days after his arrival in August 2007, died 10 days later.

Barksdale, 32, who had previously been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, was serving a life sentence for killing two Athens police officers in 2004.

Although an autopsy determined Barksdale died of hyperthermia after he was left in a single-inmate cell when temperatures reached 100-plus degrees and that drug therapy exacerbated his condition, bruising on his body was unexplained.

The Southern Center for Human Rights filed suit against DOC Commissioner Richard Allen in 2007 seeking the records in Barksdale’s death.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in September, following a two-year court battle, that the DOC must make public incident reports and other records relating to the death.

DOC spokesman Brian Corbett said Monday that the 795 pages in the records were mailed to Southern Center for Human Rights attorneys and Jake Watson, the attorney representing Farron Barksdale’s mother, Mary Barksdale, on Nov. 20.

Sarah Geraghty, an SCHR attorney, said Monday she was disappointed that in the entire 795 pages there was no explanation for the bruising on Barksdale’s body.

“It is now clear that Mr. Barksdale died of hyperthermia after being highly medicated with anti-psychotic drugs during a heat wave and unmonitored in a cell that was not air-conditioned,” said Geraghty. “But that still doesn’t explain the bruising. Photographs of Mr. Barksdale show extensive bruising. EMTs found massive bruises the size of salad plates that had been newly sustained.

“It makes it clear that he did not have the bruises when he entered the prison, but he had them before he died. The Department of Corrections went through the motions, but was ultimately content to draw no conclusions about how Mr. Barksdale sustained the bruising to his body.”

Geraghty referred questions as to Mary Barksdale’s reaction to the records to her attorney Jake Watson. Watson did not respond to a request for comment left on his answering machine.

Geraghty said that while she could not speak for Mary Barksdale, she was fairly confident that the Athens mother would continue to seek answers to her unresolved questions about her son’s death.

“She wanted to hear what happened to her son, but the records leave that unresolved,” said Geraghty.