- Associated Press - Saturday, December 13, 2014

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (AP) - As a jury convicted an Ohio prisoner in the 2013 strangulation death of his cellmate this week, the slain man’s family filed suit against the state for failing to protect him.

Jurors deliberated for about three hours Friday before convicting Logan Alan Murphy, of the Canton area, of aggravated murder in the death two years ago of Michael Ferrara Jr., The Columbus Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/1IMEFAy ).

Murphy, 23, a convicted thief with a history of mental illness, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Ferrara was found unresponsive in his cell on Jan. 11, 2013, with Murphy on top of him. In a videotaped confession played in court, Murphy said Jesus and a Hell’s Angel named Mitch had instructed him to kill Ferrara to “send him to Jesus.”

Ferrara, 34 when he died, had been serving a four-year prison sentence for burglary and other theft-related crimes committed in Cuyahoga County, and was days from release. Murphy had been moved into his cell the day before.

A lawsuit the Ferrara family filed in the Ohio Court of Claims on Thursday alleges the warden and corrections officers at Ross Correctional Institution, and Ohio’s prison system as a whole, failed to protect Ferrara.

“Everyone failed my son,” Michael Ferrara Sr. told the newspaper. “Why was he put in a cell with such a violent man? It makes no sense.”

The suit is based in part on the fact that the corrections officer in charge of the wing where Ferrara was killed did not check on inmates as required under state law. It also alleges Ferrara was picked on and sexually abused during his time in prison. It seeks standard damages of at least $25,000 per claim.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation declined comment.

Guards in the segregation unit where Ferrara and Murphy were being held are supposed to check each cell every 30 minutes.

Testimony during trial showed the guard on duty on the night of the attack checked the cells only sporadically and lied about it on his time log, the newspaper reported.

The guard committed suicide the day after the murder, although authorities have said there’s no way to prove the two events were connected.

Murphy said he laid in wait in the two-man cell for Ferrara to get up, then attacked and strangled him with a bed sheet.

Ferrara had been placed in segregation to protect him from violence by the general prison population. A prison psychologist testified that Murphy had been under mental-health watch and had been hallucinating, hearing voices and growling at her during therapy sessions before the attack.

Ross County Prosecutor Matt Schmidt said it was unquestionable that Murphy is troubled, but it takes more than an official diagnosis to prove an insanity defense.

“There was never any indication at all, regardless of whatever mental illness Logan Murphy has, that he did not know that what he was doing that day was wrong,” Schmidt said.

A sentencing date for Murphy has not yet been set.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, https://www.dispatch.com

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