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Appellate Court Victory Achieved in Ware v. Jackson

Success Secured in Georgia Court of Appeals

Our client suffered a tragedy that could have been prevented. DeMontae Ware was awaiting his release from the Fulton County Jail when he was killed by his cellmate, who moved into the cell merely hours before committing the murder. If the Fulton County Jail staffer processed Ware’s release on time rather than waiting months to do so, he could have been released sooner and alive today.

This tragedy provoked Ware’s mother to seek justice on behalf of her 25-year-old son, and she turned to our Marietta criminal defense lawyers to help achieve just that. As such, let’s examine the story behind this case.

Ware was arrested in September 2013 for misdemeanor charges of public urination and criminal trespass. He suffered from schizophrenia and participated in a diversion program for inmates who suffer from mental illness, which he completed in June 2014. As a result, Ware’s misdemeanor charges were ordered to be dropped but he remained in jail, nonetheless.

Fulton County Jail records clerk, Lachonda Johnson, was responsible for reviewing which inmates were to be released, including Ware. However, even after learning another inmate was held beyond their release date and subsequently confirming their release, Johnson “took no notice or action as to the remaining inmates.” Thus, Ware continued to await his release.

About two months later, another inmate, Bobby Wynn, attacked his cellmate and was moved into Ware’s cell as a result. Wynn had bipolar schizophrenia and was historically violent. One of his cellmates even reported being raped and beaten by Wynn, who later threatened to kill a sergeant. The shocking part about Wynn’s violent track record is that he showed his counselor a makeshift rope and shared his plans to kill his cellmate. When Wynn moved into Ware’s cell, his makeshift rope was used to murder Ware just hours later. Consequently, Wynn was sentenced to life without parole after getting convicted of murder and aggravated assault.

Fulton County Jail Failure

As we mentioned before, Ware’s death could have been prevented had his release been processed by Johnson at the correct time. In 2016, our client sued several defendants including Sheriff Ted Jackson, Lachonda Johnson and Corizon Health (the jail’s former healthcare provider), claiming negligence, negligence per se and wrongful death. Jackson and Johnson argued that they were protected by qualified immunity against our client’s claims.

In 2017, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney dismissed the claims against Corizon and agreed that Jackson and Johnson enjoyed qualified immunity, in addition to stating that our client’s negligence claims failed because Wynn’s “intervening criminal act broke the causal connection” between Johnson’s failure to act and Ware’s death. This did not sit well with our client, understandably, so she appealed the trial court’s decision.

The appellate court panel agreed that Jackson played no role in Ware’s death in addition to confirming the lower court’s stance on our client’s negligence, negligence per se and wrongful death allegations, saying the claims “failed because Wynn’s intervening criminal act broke the causal connection between Johnson’s allegedly negligent conduct and DeMontae’s death.” However, the appellate court wrote that Johnson was not protected by qualified immunity because she was trained and required to process court calendars when learning about discrepancies between court calendars and inmate records.

Thus, Johnson “had a ministerial duty to process the calendar in its entirety” but failed to recognize it. Although our attorneys at The Merchant Law Firm, P.C. would have liked to win all our claims, we are glad Johnson is still in the case and the fight for justice is still alive. Our unwavering commitment to Mrs. Ware’s goals and upholding her best interests did not go unnoticed in this case, and our Marietta criminal defense attorneys will not settle for less than what is deserved.

If you are facing criminal charges in Marietta, connect with us online or call (404) 828-0969 to learn how we can defend your case.