Colo. agrees to pay inmate $500K for alleged prison beating
The state will also pay for medical evaluations and will transfer the inmate to a prison closer to his family
The Denver Post
DENVER — The city of Denver has agreed to pay $500,000 to a convicted murderer serving a life sentence who allegedly suffered a prison beating at the hands of a guard, an incident a federal jury initially awarded him a record $6 million over. The award was rescinded in a second trial.
The state in December also agreed to pay for a neurologist and other medical consultants to evaluate why Jayson Oslund still can’t walk by himself some seven years after the incident at Sterling Correctional Facility, according to his attorney, Zachary Warren.
Additionally, Oslund, 38, would be transferred to a prison that’s closer to his Pueblo family so they can visit more frequently, according to a copy of the settlement provided to The Denver Post.
“Considering the wild turns in this case, we are very happy to get such a terrific result, and to get some things that we can only achieve through settlement — things that money just can’t buy,” Warren said in an email to The Post.
The settlement must be approved by the Colorado Claims Board and the state’s controller before it is final.
“At this point we do not have a signed agreement so it would be premature to comment further,” Department of Corrections spokeswoman Annie Skinner wrote in an email to The Post.
The case has been up and down ever since the federal judge handling the matter, U.S. Magistrate Kathleen Tafoya, negated a jury’s verdict that gave Oslund a record sum in damages, then found for the defense following a second trial in which an eight-person jury never got a chance to deliberate.
Tafoya had ruled the federal jury’s $6 million verdict — $5 million of which was for compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages – “shocks the conscience of this court” and ordered the new trial. Even though both sides presented nearly identical evidence in the second trial, Tafoya took the unusual step of granting the defense’s request for an immediate dismissal before the jury could deliberate.
Tafoya had said she thought the jury got it wrong, awarding damages when the record was “bereft of any evidence of wrongdoing” except for testimony from another inmate.
In his appeal, Oslund argued Tafoya abused her judicial discretion by first ignoring a jury, then having a “clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence.”
Oral arguments on the appeal were to begin Jan. 22, court records show.
Osland sued former prison guard Mitchell Mullen over the alleged beating. Another inmate testified the guard slammed Oslund into a wall and straddled him while demanding he stop resisting. Oslund, however, was suffering a seizure associated with his epilepsy. A seizure earlier that day left him with stitches and in need of a wheelchair. Mullen, who is no longer a DOC employee, denied the allegations, saying he was trying to assist Oslund.
Legal experts have said Tafoya’s actions after the first trial were unusual, especially since she had made her determination without reviewing the initial trial’s transcript, as is typical for a judge to do.
Oslund continues to serve a life term for felony murder stemming from a September 2009 incident in which an 18-year-old Pueblo man was beaten and later died of his injuries. Oslund and his brother, Kelly, were captured a month after the incident. Kelly Oslund was sentenced to a 28-year prison term in connection with the incident. It was later reduced to 13 years, and he has since been paroled.