Baltimore City Judge Reduces Award in Prison Bus Murder Case
$18.5 million jury award cut to $600,000
Baltimore, MD (June 1, 2012) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today that a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge has ruled in favor of the State and significantly reduced the damages awarded by a jury in the case of a prison inmate murdered in 2005 while being transported on a prison bus. The Honorable Sylvester Cox ruled that, under the law, the three claimants in the case were only entitled to receive a total of $600,000 rather than the jury award of $18.5 million.
The case arose from the murder of Philip Parker, Jr. at the hands of fellow inmate Kevin Johns. The murder took place on the overnight prison bus run from Hagerstown to Baltimore in February 2005. Both men were imprisoned at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center - "Supermax" - in Baltimore. Johns, sitting behind Parker on the bus, was able to slip his arm over Parker's head and strangle him. Correctional officers on the bus, while observing movement in the inmate compartment, did not realize a crime had occurred until Parker was discovered unconscious and unresponsive when the bus arrived at Supermax.
Following a trial in October 2011, a Baltimore City jury found three of the correctional officers negligent, their supervisor grossly negligent, and found no negligence on the part of a fourth officer. The jury also found negligence on the part of the State of Maryland and awarded a total of $18.5 million in the case.
In striking the jury award, Judge Cox also ruled that there was no evidence of gross negligence on the part of the supervisor, and that all the correctional officers were protected from liability by public official and statutory immunity. The judgments against the individual officers were stricken.
Parker was serving a prison sentence for attempted robbery and testimony showed he was being housed in the "Supermax" facility where the "worst of the worst" inmates were imprisoned. The day before he was murdered, Parker - a friend of Johns - had testified on Johns' behalf in a Hagerstown courtroom where Johns was being sentenced for a previous murder conviction.