SANTA ANA, Calif. – Results of a grand jury investigation released Monday show that an Orange County sheriff's deputy watched TV and sent text messages while jail inmates beat a fellow prisoner to death.
The findings were compiled in a report released by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who told reporters the jail probe found "institutionalized laziness." He has said, however, that the grand jury could not find criminal negligence among jail staff.
"As the district attorney of Orange County and as a citizen and a taxpayer, I absolutely can't tell you how distressed I am at some of the evidence we uncovered," Rackauckas said.
"The main goal of the deputies described in this case was to do the least amount of work possible while collecting their paychecks," he said.
According to the report, a jail guard facing the area where inmate John Derek Chamberlain was killed watched the TV show "Cops" and sent 22 personal text messages during the hour-long beating on Oct. 5, 2006.
Nine inmates have been charged with the 41-year-old's murder. No deputies were charged, but several high-ranking officials left the sheriff's department this year after the jail investigation concluded.
The report also found that deputies did not check on the area where Chamberlain lay dead for at least five hours after the assault, even though one inmate frantically jumped on a table and waved his arms in front of the deputies' guard station.
"This report establishes that the murder of John Chamberlain need not have happened. It may have been prevented if existing policies and procedures had been followed and enforced," Rackauckas wrote.
The report was another blow to a department that has seen its leader at the time, former Sheriff Michael Carona, abruptly retire this year to defend himself against federal corruption charges.
The report said jail personnel regularly failed to patrol the jail, sleeping, watching TV and playing video games at their guard stations and using inmates known as "shot callers" to maintain order.
One grand jury witness, a deputy, testified that deputies on the night shift regularly slept on mattresses on the floor of the guard station with the lights off and blankets draped over the station's windows.
Deputies also routinely ignored inmates' requests for medical attention because they involved complex paperwork. They also used a code called "10-12" to warn other deputies when supervisors were walking the jail floor and lied in shift logs.