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Court Upholds $47 Million Verdict Against GEO Group in de la Rosa Murder Case

The Thirteenth District Court of Appeals has affirmed a $47.5 (update, according to the Express-News, the judgment was actually $42.5 million) $42.5 million lawsuit judgement against the GEO Group to the family of Gregorio de la Rosa.  The court found that "Wackenhut’s conduct in maliciously causing Gregorio’s death and thereafter spoliating critical evidence so offends this Court’s sense of justice that a high ratio is warranted." 

De la Rosa, who is represented by Laredo attorney Ron Rodriguez, was brutally murdered in a GEO Group (then called Wackenhut) prison in Willacy County.  The first line of the court's judgment describes the case:

This case involves the horrific and gruesome death of Gregorio de la Rosa, Jr. (“Gregorio”). Gregorio, an honorably discharged former National Guardsman, was serving a six-month sentence at a prison operated by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation for possession of less than 1/4 grams of cocaine. A few days before his expected release, Gregorio was beaten to death by two other inmates using a lock tied to a sock, while Wackenhut’s officers stood by and watched and Wackenhut’s wardens smirked and laughed.

De la Rosa's case sparked the criminal indictment of GEO Group for murder in Willacy County last fall, a charge that was ultimately dismissed.   The appeals court opinion means that the bulk of the $47.5 million judgment will be awarded to de la Rosa's family.  According to the judgment , the company's testimony about the destroyed video evidence of de la Rosa's murder was inconsistent at best,

At trial, the family contended that a videotape existed that showed the beating but that this video had been lost or destroyed by Wackenhut.  Warden Forrest testified during his deposition that there was a video camera on one of the perimeter posts that was focused down on the beating.  In his sworn testimony, he admitted to seeing a tape of the beating and described the video and the beating in detail.  His stated that the video showed “that one inmate had beat another inmate with a sock filled with a lock,” and it showed an inmate kicking and punching Gregorio.

After reviewing his deposition, however, Warden Forrest changed his testimony, claiming that the video never existed.  At trial, he admitted to describing the video in his deposition testimony, but he claimed that his prior testimony describing the video was “based on all the information that I received regarding that incident over and over receiving information.” He explained that he had created his “own little movie” in his mind:

I did that based on all the information that I received regarding that incident over and over receiving information.  I put that picture—painted that picture in my head that I believed that’s what I saw, and that’s what I testified to, and I corrected it that day and at a later date. . . . I described what I thought I saw based on the information of everyone telling me what happened.  I painted a picture of that incident in my mind, and I played it over in my mind many, many times since then.

This judgment is certainly not good news for the GEO Group, which has been rocked by scandal after scandal here in Texas.  We'll keep you posted on developments on this case and other GEO scandals.

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Comments

I think the GEO group needs to make some changes, they have to be responsible and they deserve what they get.

i bet the family already forgot about Gregorio with all that money

NO , HIS CHILDREN HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN HIM , THEY MISS HIM EVERY DAY, THE MONEY DOES NOT REPLACE ALL THE MEMORIES , THEY WILL NEVER HAVE WITH HIM. SO AN ANSWER TO THAT REMARK " THAT THEY FOR GOT ALL ABOUT HIM " THE ANSWER IS NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My condolences to your whole family for your Gregorio! All of us NORMAL people do  understand the pain you are going through and we are all sending you a lot of love and prayer!  May God give you strength in his promise that YOU WILL see your loved one again!

NO... you are so wrong no matter what i will always love my dad.

My condolences to your whole family for your Gregorio! All of us NORMAL people do  understand the pain you are going through and we are all sending you a lot of love and prayer!  May God give you strength in his promise that YOU WILL see your loved one again!

RE: your comment about a Family forgetting murdered son  because of winning a lawsuit over his death...

Re. family receiving 47m for verdict of murdered son...

NO.... I  will never forget my dad   because he wont be there when i get married or for any of my birthdays,when i graduate or for anything buy no matter what i will always LOVE my DAD and i know he will always be with me and i dont care about the money because me and my sisters will give it all up if we can just have our dad back.