Crime - Sacto 911

Jury exonerates deputy in Sacramento jail killing

A Sacramento Superior Court jury exonerated a sheriff’s deputy Monday in the beating death of an inmate at the downtown jail six years ago, court officials said.

The jury in the civil trial needed barely three hours of deliberation spread over two days to find that the deputy, Patrick Rowe, bore no responsibility for the death of the slain inmate, Evaristo Ramirez.

“My client is obviously thrilled with the verdict and he is happy to have this over,” defense attorney Van Longyear said in an interview.

“It was somebody directly questioning his attention to detail and duty, and he obviously takes the responsibility for the people who are put in his charge very seriously,” Longyear added. “He does a good job and he’s a wonderful person: he’s exactly the kind of guy we all want working in the jail. He is competent, caring and compassionate and cares about doing the right thing.”

Ramirez, 25, had been arrested the day before his Feb. 17, 2009, death on suspicion of driving under the influence. He also was being detained on an immigration hold.

His family initially charged in the lawsuit that the Sheriff’s Department celled him up with a man who had been arrested for an alleged hammer attack on a Latino woman at the Home Depot on Folsom Boulevard.

According to the plaintiffs, a security officer at the Home Depot said that the man taken into custody for the alleged hammer attack, Richard Russell Harden, now 50, made disparaging remarks directed at Mexican nationals to the effect that they “come over the border and take all our jobs.”

A judge, however, excluded the plaintiffs from pursuing their civil action on the basis of Harden’s placement in the same cell as Ramirez. The judge, Raymond M. Cadei, ruled that sheriff’s jail personnel are immune from civil actions that target their use of discretion in making classification decisions.

The plaintiffs were only left with a case that charged Rowe with failing to timely respond to an inmate’s emergency call that there was a disturbance in the Harden-Ramirez cell.

Jurors found that Rowe was not working in the control booth at the time the inmate hit an emergency alarm to report the trouble.

The inmate, Earl Grays, testified at trial about the alarm, but defense attorney Longyear said that Grays “was not a very credible person. He gave so many conflicting stories.”

Plaintiffs’ lawyer Jesse Ortiz could not be reached for comment Monday.

Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.