Prison Sued After Gay Man Killed by Homophobic Cellmate

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The family of Rodriguez Burks, 23, is suing the Michigan Department of Corrections after Burks was murdered by his homophobic cellmate despite both inmates requesting relocation.

Last month, DeShawn Madden, also 23 (pictured, left), was convicted of the first-degree murder of Burks in their shared cell. Serving a sentence for carjacking, armed robbery and assault with intent to commit murder, Madden told prison staff that unless he was reassigned to a new cell, he would harm Burks, who was serving a two-year sentence for fleeing and eluding officers. 

"Although Madden was charged with the killing of Rodriguez Burks, each and every defendant, herein was the proximate cause of the murder," reads the lawsuit against the Alger Correctional Facility Warden Catherine S. Bauman, Deputy Warden Robert Wickstrom, Prison Administrator Dean Potilla, and 18 other staff members.

Other inmates reported to The Metro Times that both men had repeatedly asked to be separated in the days leading up to the killing.

"[Madden] was like, 'Hey I am not gonna be locked in here with a fag,'" inmate Todd Wentworth told The Metro Times. "And the guard was like, 'It's not our problem.'"

"This gentleman told [the guard] very clearly, 'Look I'm gonna hurt this guy if you don't move me out this cell,'" noted inmate Edward Spear. "Burks also told [another staffer], 'I can't lock with this guy; we're having issues, we can't do this.'"

Fellow inmates say Burks asked the resident unit manager for a new cell when she made her rounds the morning of the murder.

"She was like, 'You're not here for convenience.' Basically, we're not moving you 'cause you wanna move — this ain't the Holiday Inn," Wentworth says. A few hours later he heard shouts from Burk and Madden's cell, followed by silence.

According to the suit, Burks was found dead in his cell, lying face down from a head injury. This was only two days after he was placed in a cell with Madden.

At the time of Burks's death, he was nine months away from being eligible for parole.

The lawsuit, which is filed on behalf of Burks's mother, claims that both inmates and corrections officers knew that Burks was gay and Madden was violently homophobic. The lawsuit seeks $75,000 in damages for gross negligence, racial discrimination, and cruel and unusual punishment.

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