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One Guard Out of Inmate Death Trial

January 31, 2002

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STARKE, Fla. (AP) _ A judge declared a mistrial Thursday for one of four prison guards being tried on murder charges in the fatal beating of a death row inmate.

Circuit Judge Larry Turner said the state hadn’t provided enough evidence linking Sgt. Andrew Lewis, 31, to an alleged conspiracy to attack inmate Frank Valdes, 36.

The judge said Lewis could be tried later when another group of prison guards accused in Valdes’ death goes to trial.

Lewis’ attorney, Andrew Vloedman, declined to comment Thursday.

Valdes, who had been sentenced to death for the murder of a Palm Beach County prison guard, was fatally injured on July 17, 1999, at Florida State Prison.

Prosecutors believe he was beaten by the guards because he was gathering information about the mistreatment of inmates and planned to go to the news media with it. An autopsy showed he suffered 22 broken ribs and a broken jaw, sternum, collarbone, shoulder, spine and nose.

Attorneys for three guards now being tried argue that Valdes might have hurt himself or been killed by other guards who are set to stand trial later this year. Capt. Timothy Thornton, 36; Sgt. Charles Brown 28, and Sgt. Jason Griffis, 28, are being tried on charges of second-degree murder.

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