In 1986, North Carolina prison guard Gerry Dale was convicted of suffocating a prisoner, Vinson Harris, to death by taping an Ace bandage across his mouth.
William Weld, then chief of the US Justice Department’s criminal division, authorized Dale’s prosecution. Dale then went from guard to prisoner, serving three years of a nine-year sentence. So far this story might be terrible, but not terribly unusual.
Things took a bizarre turn after Weld became governor of Massachusetts, thanks in part to a get-tough-on-crime plank in his platform. Officials in the Weld administration hired ex-con Dale to monitor conditions in Massachusetts prisons. Now, one might wonder if a convicted inmate-killer is the best choice to monitor prison conditions. But Dale was hired, despite a Massachusetts law that forbade the hiring of felons to work in the state prison system.
When the Boston Globe newspaper caused a scandal by revealing Dale’s past, he was fired by the same people who had hired him. Dale took the course taken by so many of our esteemed public servants — he sued the state for $250,000. Weld’s legal counsel called the suit frivolous and said the state had “no intention of making a settlement.”
The only problem with not making a settlement was that many high-ranking members of the Weld administration had approved the hiring of Dale, knowing full well of his past record. In order to avoid the embarrassment that would ensue from court testimony, Weld’s administration reversed course and presto — convicted killer Gerry Dale is not only a free man, but $40,000 richer.
If all this seems confusing to you, let us summarize. A man is paid by one state to guard prisoners. He then kills one of the prisoners he is paid to guard. He is then paid by another state to monitor prison conditions. When that state fires him for his past record as a killer, he is paid once more. In effect, he has made $40,000 for killing Vinson Harris.
(Source: Boston Globe.)