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Trial Starts Today Prompted by Racial Unrest at Malibu Youth Detention Camp

Nathaniel Marshall, 24, will need lifelong care as a result of his injuries he suffered in a brawl involving Latinos and blacks at Camp Miller, his lawyer said.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

By BILL HETHERMAN
City News Service

County personnel at a youth detention camp in Malibu ignored signs of racial unrest prior to fighting that left a young man with brain injuries, his attorney said today.

Nathaniel Marshall, 24, will need lifelong care as a result of his injuries he suffered in a brawl involving Latinos and blacks at Camp Miller, 433 S. Encinal Canyon Road, his lawyer, Michael Goldstein, told a Los Angeles County jury in opening statements today.

Marshall, who is black, sued the county in February 2010, claiming he was pulled from his bunk at the camp and beaten on Nov. 1, 2008.

"This was a systematic breakdown that amounted to deliberate indifference," Goldstein said. "These kids at that camp were entitled to be protected."

Attorney Tomas Guterres, representing the county, said fights in detention camps cannot be totally prevented.

Such incidents "will occur," Guterres said. "We can't eliminate all fights. It's the nature of the population."

Goldstein said staffers and his client warned camp personnel that a riot was about to break out, but no action was taken to prevent it. The complaint alleges the county failed to properly train and supervise the staff to make sure they reacted properly to the warnings.

According to Goldstein, many of the probation officers at the camp blamed the outbreak of violence on a failure to properly discipline youths for fighting by sending them to court for violating their probation.

Goldstein said that in October 2007, the county changed its policy that previously allowed supervising probation officers to fill out forms on their own to send youths to court for fighting. The new procedure called for the filings to be approved by the director of Camp Miller, Goldstein said.

The director, however, believed the policy change was meant to discourage camp personnel from sending youths to court for probation violations, Goldstein said. Also, camp managers wanted to use of  incentives or "carrots," rather punishment or "sticks" to get youths to cooperate, Goldstein said.

Guterres said the Juvenile Court wanted the county to start disciplining wards on an individual basis.

"The only way to modify behavior is to adapt your response to that juvenile," Guterres said.

Goldstein used a diagram to show how Marshall, then 18, suffered an injury to the back of his neck. He said his client suffered strokes from the attack and today has an assortment of health issues, including epilepsy.

"He needs special care for the rest of his life and it's not inexpensive," Goldstein said.

tony May 15, 2014 at 04:28 PM
Oh my. What makes people want to hurt each other like this? So so sad.

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