News (USA)

Gay inmate choked & beaten to death. Jail officials didn’t intervene, family says.

Marcia Irving, a Black woman holds a sign of her deceased son, Janard Geffrard. The sign says "In Loving Memory" in pink cursive and has a background of blue clouds
Marcia Irving holds a sign of her deceased son, Janard Geffrard Photo: WPLG screenshot

The family of 29-year-old gay man Janard Geffrard says that Florida jail officials allowed Geffrard’s cellmate to lethally beat him for 21 minutes before intervening. Geffrard died from his injuries 16 days later.

The family’s lawyer has questioned the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO) about his murder, though it’s unclear if the family will take any legal actions against the office. The BSO has placed two detention employees on paid leave while investigating.

Prison surveillance video from December 16 showed 35-year-old cellmate Kevin Barnes choking Geffrard for two minutes. Geffrard lost consciousness, and Barnes stomped on him ten minutes later. The beating lasted for 21 minutes overall, and no detention officers intervened, the family’s attorney, Josiah Graham, told WPLG. Barnes later told investigators that “he did not agree with [Geffard’s] lifestyle because he was gay” and that Geffard “smelled and never cleaned himself.”

Geffard was declared brain-dead ten days later. He was placed on life support to harvest his organs. He died five days later on Dec. 31.

Broward County public defender Gordon Weekes said that detention officials shouldn’t have placed both Geffard and Barnes in the same cell because they both suffered from mental health issues. The family and their lawyer wrote the BSO asking why jail deputies didn’t respond to the attack.

Weekes also said that the jail deputies actions may have violated Geffard’s constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment and his rights under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a 2003 law that requires detention centers to protect detainees from victimization, The Root reported.

“I thought [my son] was safer in [jail] than in the streets,” Marcia Irving, Geffrard’s mother, told WPLG. “Somebody beat my kid up real bad, and then he kept doing it, he kept after he was out.”

In a statement, BSO said its internal affairs department was investigating the murder, and it had placed a detention deputy and a detention technician on administrative investigative leave with pay.

Non-white LGBTQ+ inmates are more likely to experience harassment and assault from other inmates than white, heterosexual, and cisgender inmates, a 2016 study from the Movement Advancement Project found.

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