- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

BALTIMORE — A former correctional officer convicted in the beating death of an inmate was sentenced to 20 years in prison after the judge heard emotional statements from family members of the victim and the defendant.

Diana Smoot, the sister of slain inmate Raymond Smoot, looked at the former correctional officer, Dameon Woods, and said Tuesday that she hoped “I can learn to forgive you for this.”

A letter from Smoot’s son that concluded “P.S.— I am without a Dad. Thanks, Mr. Woods,” was also read in court as Woods, 34, looked straight ahead, rubbing his chin at times.

However, the former correctional officer sobbed when his older brother Gregory Woods, 39, told Circuit Judge John M. Glynn that the former correctional officer had never lied to him, and he thought his brother was not guilty.

“You don’t send an innocent man to jail based on the characters that stood here before us,” Gregory Woods told Judge Glynn.

Judge Glynn said he had to “balance what the jury decided Mr. Woods did with who everyone tells me Mr. Woods is, which otherwise but for this event, is not a bad man.”

“I don’t expect anybody to be satisfied, I just hope you all can accept” the verdict, the judge said before sentencing Woods to 20 years, the upper end of the 12 to 20 years called for under sentencing guidelines for the charge.

Woods was convicted of second-degree murder, depraved heart, for the death of Smoot last year at Baltimore’s Central Booking facility. The charge differs from second-degree murder in that it is not intentional and requires an extreme disregard for human life.

Smoot was beaten and stomped in his cell at the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center in May 2005 after officers had trouble getting him back into his cell. The altercation grew into a melee that eventually involved a number of correctional officers.

Woods was one of three correctional officers charged in Smoot’s death. One was acquitted, and charges were dismissed for the other. In all, eight correctional officers were fired after the fatal beating and the incident focused public attention on conditions at the troubled facility.

The former correctional officer’s attorney, Margaret Mead, had a request for a retrial denied before sentencing. She planned to appeal the sentence, saying she was convinced her client is innocent.

Miss Mead has argued that her client is a scapegoat who was set up by other officers.

“I’ve never in my 16 years of practice seen such an egregious investigation. The state’s star witnesses had blood all over them,” Miss Mead said.

“These are the people that are supposedly pointing to Officer Woods. What’s so outrageous with this is nobody continued the investigation. The state just gets a couple of names and says ‘let’s close it out, let’s go with these.’ ”

Prosecutor Mark Cohen said the state was not “looking for a fall guy.”

“Our job is to present the case,” Mr. Cohen said. “The jury found one not guilty and convicted defendant Woods. That’s the system we have.”

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