May 312016
 
Warden Burl Cain (Louisiana State Penitentiary) Photo: Blake Boyd's "Louisiana Cereal."

Warden Burl Cain (Louisiana State Penitentiary)
Photo: Blake Boyd’s “Louisiana Cereal.”

Hardly any other warden in the USA has been covered by national and international media as much as the longest serving, controversial, former warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) at Angola, also known as “The Farm”. Often, the coverage was positive – especially from authors and film makers who intended to return for more stories – when it was about rehabilitation through religion, morals, inmate labor, and consequences. Others criticized him for arbitrariness, how he handled high profile prisoners like the “Angola 3” (former Black Panthers) and non-Christians (including Catholics), while he made his friends’ convicted friends or relatives trusties with amazing privileges: An undisputed double murderer was working at the Governor’s Mansion and stayed at the State Police Barracks in Baton Rouge. On another lifer’s behalf, Cain coaxed a videotaped deathbed confession from a dying LSP prisoner, which – however – allegedly did not fit the details of the killing.

Republican Nathan Burl Cain actually managed to have got a tight grip on many important things in the State of Louisiana. He was the wirepuller, a powerbroker. Officially, not everything that is (not) granted to the prisoners he oversaw was in Cain’s power, but those working for the state give a warden’s word “a tremendous amount of weight,” State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson says in an article by The Advocate of Baton Rouge.

Burl Cain was born on July 2, 1942 and grew up with his siblings in the small rural town of Pitkin (Vernon Parish), approximately 50 miles west of Avoyelles Parish. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the Louisiana State University in Alexandria and graduated with a master’s degree in criminal justice from Grambling State University in Lincoln Parish.

Cain then worked in the Louisiana branch of the American Farm Bureau Federation and soon became Assistant Secretary of the money-making agri-business (now also known as the Prison Enterprises Division) for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. At the age of 38, Cain was appointed to the position of Warden of the Dixon Correctional Institute (1981-1995) at Jackson – one of the Farm’s satellite prisons.

In 1990, Cain successfully campaigned and became the employee representative on the State Civil Service Commission. The commission is a “review board that enacts and adjudicates State Civil Service Rules to regulate state personnel activities, and hears appeals from state employees and agencies,” reads its website. Cain served for 20 years and was the commission’s chairperson until 2011.

In 1991, Cain was a co-founder of the newly established organization Louisiana Wardens and Superintendents (LAWS) that pursued the appointment of his friend, Richard Stalder, as the corrections secretary (1992-2008) by lobbying Governor Edwin Edwards. In 1995, Stalder returned the favor and promoted his supporter Cain to the position of Warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, the oldest and largest state prison. The Farm is the only maximum security facility in the pelican state.

In 2002, Burl Cain was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame (one year before his boss, Department of Corrections Secretary Richard Stalder, was honored the same way in 2003).

In 2011, a federal investigation into Burl Cain’s private real estate deals began. In early 2015, Cain considered running for governor, but eventually did not do so. Last December (effective January 1, 2016), Warden Cain abruptly quit his well-paid job when the Baton Rouge Advocate for not quite a month had been investigating Cain’s private dealings with family and friends of some of his own inmates. Due to a now-closed loophole, retired Cain continues to live in the warden’s residence on the prison ground for free and receives more than three-fourth ($134,000) of his prior annual salary this year until August 2016.

Cain is a businessman to the core and has been the state’s highest paid civil servant. Some might be of the opinion that whenever he has a hand in something, it either serves his power, his purse, or ideally both. Current state legislator, Senator J.P. Morrell (Democrat), is chairman of the committee that oversees the Department of Corrections (DOC). He wants to fill loopholes in the law that the Department of Public Safety and Corrections may have used in Cain’s vindication of any wrongdoing. The main objective is that no warden is getting away with fraternizing with an inmate’s loved one again. Meanwhile, further probes by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections have far reaching implications in Cain’s network of family members, friends, colleagues, and beyond.

There have been several different allegations and parallel investigations in this scandal around the Cain Clan by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, the state Inspector General’s Office (specialized in public corruption), the State Police, and Louisiana’s legislative auditor. But how reliable are all the probes when family bonds and political ties are stronger than ethics and morals in the State of Louisiana? Some of the key figures around Burl Cain, Sr. are:

James LeBlanc
Current Department of Corrections Secretary (annual salary: $136,700), Cain’s ex-boss and “very best friend”, reappointed by the newly elected Governor John Bel Edwards (not related to ex-Governor Edwin Edwards). Earns $30,000 less than Cain (annual salary: $167,200) per year. LeBlanc and Cain are close longtime friends and private business partners. The Advocate reports that during LeBlanc’s tenure of office, “Cain’s children have been steadily promoted within the department’s hierarchy without raising any questions of nepotism.”

Richard Lee Stalder
Former Department of Corrections Secretary (1992–2008). Cain along with the LAWS lobbied Governor Edwards and Edwards in return appointed Stalder as corrections secretary, a position traditionally given to political supporters. Stalder had been one of Cain’s former deputies and ex-warden of the Wade Correctional Center. As corrections secretary, Stalder promoted Cain from the Dixon Correctional Institution to the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 1995. He was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame one year after Cain in 2003.

Nathan Burl “Nate” Cain II
Cain Sr.’s eldest son has been the Warden of the Raymond Laborde Correctional Center (RLCC) formally known as the Avoyelles Correctional Center (ACC) in Cottonport since 2012. (Annual salary: $109,000.)

Three years before his promotion to the top job at the Avoyelles Correctional Center (ACC), Nate Cain had been Warden Robert Henderson’s deputy at the Phelps Correction Center in DeQuincy and witnessed the brutal beating of a recaptured work release inmate in handcuffs by three guards and praised them for the “good job”, reports The Advocate. According to the prisoner, Nate Cain even participated in the assault himself. Neither the District Attorney’s Office, nor the FBI seem to have a record of the incident. Cain Jr.’s misconduct was not prosecuted and did not end his career either. Instead, he climbed up the ladder. Phelps was closed, ACC’s Warden Lynn Cooper retired, and Cain Jr. took over. Sergeant Randon Harrington, who was involved in the inmate beating at Phelps, is now a major at RLCC. Jessie Bellamy and Brandon Fruge were the other two guards implicated in the misconduct. Bellamy now is a captain at Angola and Fruge does not work in corrections anymore.

Avoyelles Parish has made headlines for escapes from jails and prison for decades. Except for a female guard, there have never been meaningful consequences for those persons in charge. Now it is not about the escape of a criminal but – as far as journalists could find out – about $76,000 of state money for a possibly unauthorized construction (the “Ranch House”) near the RLCC’s prison gate, its’ shutdown late last year, and misconduct regarding reports of inmate rapes.

Amidst an internal probe, Cain Jr. was on paid leave from April until May 24, 2016, when he resigned alleging some health issues. RLCC’s internal investigators Beau Milligan and Randon Harrington remain on paid leave.

Tonia Cain
Cain Sr.’s daughter-in-law, Nate Cain’s wife, is RLCC’s ex-prison business manager. She retired on May 20, 2016 amidst an internal probe now claiming her husband’s health issues.

RLCC’s Deputy Warden Paul Gaspard retired on May 18, 2016.

Marshall Cain
Cain Sr.’s second son is Regional Manager of Prison Enterprises. Annual salary: $63,500.

Seth Smith, Jr.
is Cain Sr.’s son-in-law. Smith is an expensive “Confidential Assistant” (also called “the No. 2 official”) for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. He assigns prisoners, i.e. their low-paid labor, to the profitable Transitional Work Program for parish sheriffs and private operators.
Smith’s annual salary: $150,000. That is $13,300 more than his boss, Department of Corrections Secretary LeBlanc, receives.
Smith is former deputy warden of the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center at St. Gabriel, a prison complex plagued with high-profile escapes. Warden Howard Prince quit his job and Smith replaced him.
According to the Associated Press, Smith was also “the person tasked with locating supplies of lethal injection drugs for use at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola” two years ago, when companies refused to sell the chemicals for such purpose after botched executions in other states.

Tim Hooper
is Deputy Warden of the Elayn Hunt Correction Center in St. Gabriel. Hooper’s son is married to Cain’s granddaughter and Seth Smith’s stepdaughter: Capt. Kristen Hooper.

Kristen Hooper
is Captain at the Angola Prison. She is Cain Sr.’s granddaughter, Seth Smith’s stepdaughter, and Tim Hooper’s daughter-in-law.

Kenny Norris
is Cain Sr.’s assistant warden at Angola and married to Cain’s niece. He lives in Cain Sr.’s hometown Pitkin. An allegation regarding a payroll fraud (annual salary: $93,000) could not really be investigated, because Norris was not required to log his comings and goings as his colleagues must do. State Police investigator Trooper Jesse Brown and D.A. Sam D’Aquilla relied on Norris himself, his family and subordinates. They determined that they are not charging Norris, although assistant warden Stephanie Lamartinier found out that Norris’ time sheets did not add up with those from the front gate log books.
Deputy Warden Leslie Dupont, Col. Stewart Hawkins and Capt. Kristen Hooper supported Cain’s and Norris’ statement.

James David Cain
is Burl Cain Sr.’s older brother (born on October 13, 1938)
1972–1992: Louisiana State Representative for District 32 (Allen, Beauregard, and Calcasieu parishes)
1992–2008: Louisiana State Senator for District 30 (Beauregard, Calcasieu, and Vernon parishes)

James Hilburn
is a lawyer for the state.

Pam Laborde
is the ex-Communications Director for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. She stepped down for an unknown reason on May 23, 2016 after 12 years in office. She did not answer my email.

Natalie Laborde
is a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Darrel Vannoy
is Angola’s new warden replacing Burl Cain Sr.

Greg Phares
is the ex-chief investigator with the state Inspector General’s Office. He writes in a letter to the editor of The Advocate that he did not participate in the report of March 22, 2016, by Inspector General Stephen Street. The Advocate concludes that the “reports thought to clear Cain might deserve more scrutiny.”

Stephen Street
is the Inspector General. He defends Burl Cain Sr.’s exoneration, because his team was of the opinion that there was not enough evidence for a criminal case against Cain. According to The Advocate, two corrections employees came forward to the newspaper and stated that they had worked for free on the property of Burl Cain Sr.’s wife, Jonalyn Cain, but that no investigator has ever interviewed them.

William Kissinger
is a Louisiana state prisoner and whistleblower, who became the target of Burl Cain Sr.’s retribution. Kissinger used to serve time for murder at Angola, but in February of 2016, he was transferred to the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel against his will and allegedly thrown into a lockdown cell. The New Orleans Advocate reports that a federal judge once “ordered Cain to leave Kissinger alone”.

More in the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish”

Related:

“Mr. Marksville” dies at the age of 88

Book: With Edwards in the Governor’s Mansion – From Angola to Free Man

Louisiana Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty to Covering up Assault on an Inmate

Ex-Governor Edwin Edwards back on stage

Ex-Governor Edwin Edwards’ credibility

USA: Almost 50% of all prisoners worldwide are in the “Land of the Free”

Legislators slowly react to Louisiana’s collapsing penal system

 

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Jan 192014
 


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Forest Hammond Martin showing his executive clemency document signed by Governor Edwin Edwards and with a golden seal.
Courtesy Forest Hammond Martin, Sr.

Book-Review

In April of 1973, Forest “Saint” Hammond Martin was a juvenile of 17 years in Baton Rouge, who was to graduate from Capitol High School. The African-American (1/4 Blackfoot Indian and 1/4 Jewish) was a local football star with a full athletic scholarship to Southern Illinois College (SIC) in his pocket. His future looked glorious – maybe too glorious. He had lost his mother at the age of 14, worked hard for his father’s janitorial business, was invited to many parties, had several girl-friends, had fathered a little baby-girl, had no criminal record, and yet, he was street smart with a tendency to overestimate himself.

Saint’s life changed dramatically on April 10, 1973 when he was present at an attempted armed robbery going wrong in a drugstore of his hometown. This is the story that Forest Hammond Martin tells in his autobiography “With Edwards in the Governor’s Mansion: From Angola to Free Man”, edited by Tom Aswell and published by the Pelican Publishing Company of Gretna, Louisiana, in 2012.

The author writes that the only reason why he was at the crime scene was that he wanted to convince the triggerman, whom he did not know, of not doing it before someone got hurt. Saint admits that he did make a grave mistake in that pharmacy though. The white murder victim was Billy Middleton, a 55 year old pharmacist. Middleton was friend with District Attorney Ossie Brown  and Judge Elmo E. Lear of East Baton Rouge Parish who both handled this criminal case.

The authorities did know that Saint was not the killer. They also had the true perpetrator in custody soon, who confessed. Nevertheless, at least four uniformed police officers with a shotgun and revolvers in their hands, two policemen with dogs and motorcycle cops came to the high school student’s house, put him in handcuffs telling his father that his son was not arrested but merely driven to the station to let Saint look at some pictures. They pretended that the handcuffs were needed by law for insurance reasons only. Therefore, no Miranda  warnings had been given to Saint and no defense attorney was called.

The detectives told Saint that they had arrested two other boys and that one of them – the shooter – implicated Saint in the crime. Nevertheless, the officers promised the youngster that he could go to college, if he gave a statement to them. In the statement itself however, Saint was to say that no promises had been made to him. Manipulations of any kind violate the Miranda doctrine. Saint got jailed and faced the danger of being raped for the first time in his life.

On May 18, 1973 one of the detectives testified in a hearing before District Judge Elmo E. Lear that they had arrested Saint at his home reading him the Miranda rights in front of his father and that they had not been aware of the fact that the arrestee had a scholarship to play football in college. They also denied their misconduct regarding the promise they had made to the football star.

As in Vincent Simmons’ case, the detectives lied to cover up their unethical conduct and illegal practices. The difference with Simmons’ case is that the Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Deputies have never been forced to testify under oath in court so far.

Saint’s public defender had just graduated from law school with either little or no experience in court. He had a conversation with Judge Lear behind closed doors.  Before Saint entered the room, he heard Lear say, “Now Warren, this conference never happened.”

Without his knowledge, Saint was to be the State’s star witness in the true perpetrator’s trial. When District Attorney Brown realized that his witness-to-be had no idea of the deal, the bargain burst before it was sealed. Yet, the sensation-seeking press reported anyway. Thanks to misinformation by professionals, Saint became the declared snitch throughout Louisiana’s jails and prisons. One of the unwritten laws behind bars is that “only a dead rat is a good rat.”

On October 15, 1973 Saint was arraigned for the murder charge in Judge Lear’s courtroom. His new lawyer advised that the accused had to plead guilty, if he did not want to receive a 99-year prison sentence for armed robbery, or capital punishment without the possibility of parole, probation, commutation or suspension of sentence for murder, in case Saint insisted to go to trial.

Once again Saint and his father were lied to. The defense attorney alleged that if Saint pled guilty, he would not serve his time at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola but at a trade school with sports program for first-offender youth at DeQuincy. That institution was just for short-timers though. There, Saint could earn his weekend-passes to come home. The lawyer also said that the judge would pardon Saint after two years. However, the attorney instructed the defendant that if the judge asked whether or not any promises had been made, Saint had to say ‘no.’

The sentence was “automatic,” as Judge Lear expressed it: Natural life at Angola. Yet, the tricky thing with the bargain was that because of the protecting “double jeopardy” rule, which allowed the State to prosecute Saint for one crime (either murder or armed robbery) only, there was no deal either way. Plus, Saint did not personally enter a plea of guilty. This means that he had never been convicted and, therefore, was entitled to be back in court. But no one in power whom his father was connected with actually wanted to stand up for Saint since the “case [was] too hot.”

butler_k

Butler Forest Hammond Martin at the Governor’s Mansion in 1979.
Courtesy Forest Hammond Martin, Sr.

Saint entered the prison as “fresh fish” (common name for imprisoned newbies) and immediately started a positive career. For his brighter mind, extraordinary typing skills and sporting talent, Saint made it within 5 years and 10 months from an ordinary field slave, to an inmate lawyer, light-heavy boxing champion (also fighting in Governor Edwards’  and Vincent Simmons’ home parish  for charity fundraisers at the high-schools in Simmesport  and Bunkie), and eventually he became one of the First Family’s butlers at the governor’s mansion.

Saint continued to fight his illegal confinement in the courts. In April of 1975, Judge Lear denied the prisoner’s first habeas corpus petition in the 19thJudicial District Court. On August 14, 1978 and on September 6, 1978 there were two evidentiary hearings before Magistrate Judge Frank J. Polozola in the United States District Court, Middle District of Louisiana. Polozola was forced by the evidence to admit, “We don’t have a conviction here.”

At that time, Saint’s former defense attorney was Assistant District Attorney for the East Baton Rouge Parish. The same change of sides happened in Vincent Simmons’ case. Michael Kelly, one of his two public defense attorneys also became an Assistant of District Attorney “Eddie” Knoll. Nowadays, Kelly is the First Assistant District Attorney in Avoyelles Parish.

Magistrate Judge Polozola ate dinner at the governor’s mansion to discuss this criminal case with Edwin Edwards and to ask him not to pardon Saint. Governor Edwards promptly stated that no one should be imprisoned without a conviction. District Attorney Ossie Brown threatened Edwards with massive public protest, if Saint stayed in the mansion instead of in Angola. Magistrate Judge Polozola eventually denied Saint’s motion after 15 months and Governor Edwards pardoned Saint on January 16, 1980 despite all odds. In 2000, Polozola would be the judge in Governor Edwards’ federal racketeering trial and sentence him to 10 years in prison.

When Forest Hammond Martin was a free man again, he fought a couple of months for Sugar Ray Leonard’s Boxing gym in Maryland. Then he worked successfully for the Baton Rouge Public Defender Office and had his own janitorial businesses and employees in Baton Rouge and Alexandria. Now, Saint is a boxing instructor, educates at-risk-youth, and is the dean of the Alexandria branch of the Institute of Divine Metaphysical Research. At his relatively young age, he is the father of six, grandfather and even great-grandfather.

This book paints (and illustrates through photos) a lot of vivid scenes in the complex life of a prisoner that average people out here cannot know. The criminal justice and penal systems are a cosmos of their own. The two books “With Edwards in the Governor’s Mansion – From Angola to Free Man” and “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish” are true stories far beyond clichés. They complement each other. Both are witnesses of more or less the same era, the same places, the same top official, the same culture, and the same system.  Customers who viewed this item also viewed the other” one might encourage interested readers in order to expand the bigger picture. These books are especially recommended to residents and voters in Louisiana – the state with the highest incarceration rate in the USA, the top-prison nation worldwide for many, many years.

Note: In spring of 2015, Forest Hammond Martin publicly joined the party that wants to keep Vincent Simmons in prison at all costs. He changed his vote on the poll of the book’s Facebook page from “Grant Vincent Simmons a hearing” to “Keep Vincent Simmons in prison!” without trying to prove Simmons’ guilt as I ask opponents to do.

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May 232012
 

The National Registry of Exonerations is a new joint project of the University of the Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. It maintains an up to date list of all known exonerations in the United States since 1989, including Louisiana, of course.

There were at least 38 (state and federal) exonerations in the Pelican State during the past 23 years, which makes the top-prison state also one of the top-10 exoneration states in the USA. From 1989 through 2012, the National Registry of Exonerations has reported:

  • 1 exoneration in Caddo Parish
  • 1 exoneration in Calcasieu Parish
  • 1 exoneration in East Baton Rouge Parish
  • 1 exoneration in Jackson Parish
  • 8 exonerations in Jefferson Parish
  • 13 exonerations in Orleans Parish
  • 1 exoneration in Sabine Parish
  • 3 exonerations in St. Tammany Parish
  • 2 exonerations in Terrebonne Parish
  • 2 exonerations in Union Parish
  • 1 exoneration in Washington Parish.

Rural Avoyelles Parish is one of the parishes where someone has been falsely convicted but never exonerated. If Vincent Simmons was exonerated one day and his case became an entry in the National Registry of Exonerations, it might list as typcially contributing factors:

  • perjury or false accusation
  • deliberate misidentification
  • official misconduct
  • lack of forensic evidence, and
  • (maybe even) fabricated crime.
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May 182011
 

On recommendation of the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered on May 10, 2011, that Justice of the Peace Roger Adams, Sr., of Ward 7/ Simmesport, 12th District, Parish of Avoyelles, State of Louisiana, be suspended without pay for one year, followed by a two-year period of probation, attend the Attorney General’s justice of the peace training every year until his term of probation is completed, reimburse and pay to the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana the sum of US$532.58. 

The court opines that Adams violated Canons 1, 2 (A), and 3 (A) (1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and Article V, Section 25 (C) of the Louisiana Constitution 

Adams, an African-American non-lawyer and Democrat has been in office for eight years. The first time the Louisiana Supreme Court suspended him was in June of 2007 (In re: Adams, 07-0426 (La. 6/29/07), 959 So.2d 474). The justice of the peace admitted he had issued arrest warrants for two persons for a parade permit violation and having set excessively high bonds in retaliation for their political opposition to the mayor of the Town of Simmesport, James T. “Boo” Fontenot (July 7, 1951 – August 4, 2008) 

In April 2008, an inmate at the Avoyelles Women’s Correctional Center in Simmesport asked Adams to sign a judgment of her and her husband’s divorce. Although justices of the peace do not have jurisdiction (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 4913) in such matters, Adams signed the document and received a US$10.00 “notary fee” in return.  Further mistakes were:

Adams uses the Justice Court Manual prepared by the Louisiana Attorney General to assist justices of the peace in the performance of their duties, but he also admits that he made a “hasty decision.” 

The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled, “Adams’s [sic] lack of familiarity with even the most basic rules pertaining to the exercise of his authority in a civil matter constitutes serious misconduct.”

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