Deputies not culpable in cellmate murder case

Richard Lee Dawson's suspected murderer wasn't suspect

Downtown's Central Jail
  • Downtown's Central Jail

A county law-enforcement board has found that sheriff's deputies failed to conduct inmate counts on March 28, 2014, the night that inmate Richard Lee Dawson was allegedly murdered by his cellmate.

The County Law Enforcement Review Board released the findings in its February 13 agenda.

Dawson was found strangled to death in his cell at the San Diego Central Jail, as reported by CityBeat in 2014. Deputies suspected his cellmate Brandon Mason was Dawson's killer. Less than one month later, however, Mason was found hanging in his cell. He died a week later.

But according to the recently released agenda sheriff's deputies had failed to conduct "soft counts" on Dawson's cell block.

When conducting soft counts on the date of the incident, deputies were required to verify Dawson’s well-being through verbal or physical acknowledgement from Dawson.

"[Deputies] provided information during the course of [the] investigation that supported the recommended finding," reads the report. "The evidence supported the allegation, a violation of Sheriff’s Department Detention Services Bureau Policy..."

According to a medical examiner's reports from Dawson's death, other inmates had looked for Dawson in the early evening of March 28. Mason, his cellmate, told the others to leave Dawson alone.

It wasn't until close to midnight that deputies went into the cell to find Dawson on his bed. There was blood spatter underneath his bed.

Mason died before murder charges could be filed.

Though the review board did find evidence of inadequate soft counts, they did not find any evidence of negligence.

"There was no indication that Dawson’s classification or placement in the cell with his cellmate was inappropriate. There was no evidence that Dawson expressed concern about his classification or cell placement. As it pertained to the events leading up to the death, there was no evidence to support an allegation of misconduct or negligence on the part of Sheriff’s Department sworn personnel."

The review board meet at the County Administration Building on February 13 at 5:30 p.m.

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I'd be interested to see what the death and injury statistics for SDCJ are compared to other county lockups. Too many people die in "protective custody" not to be suspicious of a mentality of "letting justice take its course."

That's a great usual. It would be interesting to see the numbers for similar-sized facilities elsewhere as well to see if the numbers are similar. Looks like another PRA is needed. Thx -dH

Also look at government run facilities vs privately run facilities.

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