GRAPHIC: Family seeks answers in death of Mississippi inmate

Updated: May. 22, 2020 at 11:10 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - 3 On Your Side first reported the death of a Central Mississippi Correctional Facility inmate named Lisa Michelle Courtney last December.

Her cause of death was listed as a perforated stomach ulcer, but her family says she was subjected to some things behind bars, before her death, that should never happen to anyone whether they’re in jail or not and they’re sharing surveillance video to prove it.

We warn you, the images are disturbing.

July 2019 inside the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County and all hell is about to break loose after 33-year-old Lisa Courtney knocks a food tray out of a prison guard’s hands.

A fight breaks out and officers and prisoners pile on Courtney.

Joshua Lewis said, “The officers then leave the cell block and for the next minute or two, the inmates just, they have their way with her, kicking her in the head, stomping on her, hitting her with the prison cell phone. Even as the officers come back in and drag her out and even while they’re dragging her out, the inmates kicking her in the face and just.. I mean it’s horrible.”

Joshua Lewis is a friend of the family and now an attorney representing them.

Lewis said, “We have not filed a lawsuit and I don’t even know that we’re going to do that. At this point, we just want some accountability and we want answers.”

Answers, said Joshua Lewis, to what happened to Lisa Courtney and why.

Lewis said, “After this incident, so she’s handcuffed, she’s taken outside and she’s beaten unrecognizable by one of the guards with handcuffs on and then she’s put in maximum security and then we have this, you know, this mysterious death where she dies. Well, she was begging to be taken to the hospital, ‘I’m going to die, I’m going to die.’ And they give her Maalox, send her back to her cell and she’s found dead.”

That was in December 2019 and Lewis says nothing has ever been done to the ones responsible for the vicious attack on Lisa Courtney.

”You know, it wasn’t just the guards against Lisa. It wasn’t just the inmates against Lisa. It was the inmates and the guards against Lisa," said Lewis.

He continued, “They need to be prosecuted. If they’re gonna refer Lisa, let’s refer them to the grand jury and let’s put it all out there and let’s let them decide whether charges should be brought. It shouldn’t be handled behind the scenes just internally as an investigation. Some of these individuals weren’t even fired. They still work there.”

Lewis said Lisa Courtney was serving for burglary and had a troubled past, but he says she was serving her punishment and deserved at least a chance to turn her life around.

Lewis gave me copies of emails sent to Ron King, superintendent of CMCF and Sheila Parks, warden of the facility; emails from her sister detailing bullying and requesting transfers for her safety.

Courtney apparently was in debt to several other offenders and not able to cover those debts.

A new MDOC director, Burl Cain, was named just this week. I will reach out to him for response.

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