Riot trial moved to Jackson

Published 12:01 am Sunday, March 22, 2015

NATCHEZ — When the inmates charged with planning to kill a prison guard during a violent prison riot at Adams County Correctional Center in May 2012 go to trial, they won’t be tried in the federal courthouse in Natchez.

Two inmates, Jesus Beltran-Rodriguez and Ricardo Gonzalez-Porras, have already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, but the three men indicted alongside them — Hector Miguel Diaz-Osuna, Ernesto Granados and Juan Geraldo Arredondo — were set to go to trial Monday.

The trial was continued until June 8, however, at the request of the defense to have more time to review the case. When the trial starts, it will be in Jackson.

Diaz-Osuna is charged with rioting, conspiracy to murder and a violation of the federal code protecting officers and employees of the United States. Arredondo and Granados are charged with rioting.

U.S. District Court staff members declined to discuss the venue change, but U.S. Southern District of Mississippi Western Division Judge David Bramlette granted the change of venue following a motion by Diaz-Osuna’s public defender, Michael Scott.

Scott requested the venue change because all of the defense attorneys and the prosecutor are located in Jackson and because “in-depth media coverage coupled with the relatively low population count in the Western Division creates a reasonable inference that an unbiased jury pool will be much more difficult to achieve in the Western Division.”

The motion likewise expressed concerns that the Adams County Jail, which would have to house the defendants and any prisoner witnesses brought in for the case, does not have adequate space or staff to do so, while the Madison County jail has 250 more beds than Adams County’s facility.

Several correctional officers were assaulted and one correctional officer, Catlin Carithers, died as a result of injuries he received during the riot.

Other correctional officers were taken captive by inmates and held hostage for several hours.

The riot started when inmates sought to protest what they perceived as inadequate food and medical treatment and disrespect from guards. The protest erupted into a full-scale riot after prison authorities attempted to break it up.

Federal affidavits have stated the initial protest was organized following a change in leadership in an informal inmate group known as Paisas. Granados and Arrendondo are alleged to have recently taken leadership roles in the Paisas group the day before the disturbance.

Carithers was on a building roof deploying chemical crowd control canisters when inmates stacked food service trays and other items to get to him and other guards on the building.

Damage to the Adams County Correctional Center was estimated to be more than $1.3 million.