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July 31, 2011
State settles prison inmate's lawsuit for $22,500

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

As a jury deliberated in Oakland, the state agreed to pay $22,500 to settle a lawsuit by a Pelican Bay prisoner who said guards clubbed, beat and pepper-sprayed him after he tried to pick up an address book that an officer took from him and dropped on the floor.

The settlement Thursday ended a trial that began in federal court July 18 and was in the second day of jury deliberations. A lawyer for inmate Curtis Lee Henderson said it was a rare victory in a suit accusing prison guards of using excessive force.

"We feel like we beat the odds," said attorney Adam Lauridsen. He said Henderson, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence, initially represented himself and defeated the state's motion to dismiss the case before U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong appointed lawyers for him.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation declined to comment on the settlement.

Henderson, a former security guard in Fresno, was convicted of murder in the early 1990s and sentenced to 32 years to life. According to his suit, guards at Pelican Bay in Del Norte County were conducting a routine search of him in August 2006 when one officer took an address book out of his pocket and dropped it, and another kicked it across the floor. ...

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