MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A former officer with the Alabama Department of Corrections was arrested Tuesday and charged with murder in the death case of a prison inmate.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's office and DOC officials took Michael Anthony Smith, 37, of Auburn into custody for the August 4, 2010 beating death of Rocrast Donnell Mack.
Mack was a prisoner at Ventress Correctional Facility in Barbour County at the time of his death.
"This is a tragedy not only for the inmate's family, but for the entire Department of Corrections whose reputation was tarnished by this vicious crime" Strange said.
An October 17 hearing before a Barbour County grand jury resulted in the indictment of Smith, who was a lieutenant at Ventress, and found specific charges that Smith intentionally caused Mack's death "by beating him with his hands, fists, feet, and/or baton."
Mack, 24, was taken to a Troy hospital for initial treatment. He was then transferred to a Montgomery hospital where he died the next day.
The DOC, in a statement issued in January, said it immediately opened an internal investigation and sought the assistance of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. The resulting probe found possible criminal conduct and a total of six corrections officers lost their jobs. DOC said two were fired and four resigned under threat of being fired. Their names were never released.
The investigation was then turned over to the Attorney General's office.
"When correctional officers are sworn in, they take an oath of office that they will not abuse those in their charge," Attorney General Strange said. "In this case, however, a senior officer is accused of not only violating his oath of office, but of being so brutal in his actions that he took the life of an inmate under circumstances that make murder the appropriate charge."
Strange's office said it was urged by DOC Commissioner Kim Thomas to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.
The announcement of Smith's arrest immediately elicited a response from the Equal Justice Initiative. "We're encouraged that criminal charges have been filed for the horrific beating death of Mr. Mack," said EJI Executive Director Bryan Stevenson. "We hope all who are criminally liable are held accountable for this tragedy and that state officials will do as much as possible to eliminate violent assaults and beatings within state prisons."
Smith is being held at the Lee County Jail on a $500,000 bond. No trial date has been set in this case. If convicted, the Attorney General's office says Smith faces a maximum penalty of 99 years to life in prison.