By Eddie Burkhalter, Appleseed Researcher
An Alabama Department of Corrections officer was arrested Thursday and charged with murder in connection with the death of an incarcerated man, who had nearly completed a 20-year sentence. The violence occurred at Elmore Correctional Facility, the site of numerous incidents of unlawful brutality by correctional staff toward incarcerated people.
D’Marcus Sanders, a sergeant, faces murder charges and resigned his position at ADOC after the incident, ADOC told Appleseed in a statement. Two incarcerated men are also charged with murder in the death.
Rubyn Murray, the victim, had served 19 years of a 20 year sentence for a 2004 robbery. The Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole denied parole for Mr. Murray in February of 2021. His conviction stemmed from a robbery of a Montgomery convenience store in which $125 was stolen; no one was injured, according to court records. He was 39 years old when he died.
Violence and mismanagement at Elmore has been pervasive over the last decade. Sgt. Ulysses Oliver Jr. was sentenced last year to 30 months in federal prison for the 2019 assault of two incarcerated persons at Elmore Correctional Facility. Both men were handcuffed behind their backs and did not resist, according to court records.
Also in 2022, Correctional Officer Eli White was caught on video beating an incarcerated man on a prison rooftop at Elmore. The violence caught on camera and shared widely on social media became a visible example of the often unseen abuse that regularly takes place in Alabama prisons, Appleseed reported in September 2022.
And in 2017, correctional officers allegedly beat and hogtied Billy Smith, leaving him screaming for help as supervisors worked nearby. Mr. Smith soon died, and Elmore Officer Jeremy Singleton was charged with manslaughter, according to reporting by Injustice Watch.
Mr. Murray’s death is at least the fourth violent death of an incarcerated Alabamian since 2020, the year the United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the State of Alabama over unconstitutional violence, death, and sexual assault across the entire prison system for men.
Mr. Murray was involved in an altercation with another officer earlier on Wednesday which resulted in minor injuries on both the officer and Mr. Murray, according to the ADOC statement. Murray was then taken to a “back gate holding area” and was to be taken to Staton Correctional Facility for medical assessment and treatment.
“Before the transport could occur and in violation of ADOC policy, two other inmates gained access to the holding area,” the statement reads. “Inmate Murray was found unresponsive and was transported to SHCU and then to an area hospital for emergency treatment. Medical staff was unable to resuscitate inmate Murray and he was pronounced deceased by the attending physician.”
“Based on evidence gathered so far, Correctional Sgt. Demarcus Sanders and inmates Fredrick Gooden and Stefranio Hampton have been charged with Murder,” the statement continues.
Two sources tell Appleseed that Mr. Murray was eating breakfast Wednesday morning when a female officer ordered him to return to his dorm, and the altercation ensued.
Other incidents in which ADOC officers are believed to have been responsible in deaths and assaults of incarcerated people in state prisons include:
- Former ADOC Lt. Mohammad Jenkins was arrested in March 2022 and charged with second-degree assault in connection with the beating of Victor Russo at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility. Russo died days later at a local hospital.
- Two other Alabama correctional officers were arrested in May 2022 and charged in connection with the April death of an incarcerated man at Donaldson Correctional Facility after he became stuck in the door to his cell, according to jail records and a source with knowledge of the incident.
- Jason Kirkland, 27, died on July 5, 2021, when he became stuck in the door of his cell, according to reporting by Beth Shelburne, an investigative reporter.
- Steven Davis, 35, died in 2020 after being beaten by officers at Donaldson prison, according to witnesses who spoke to the U.S. Department of Justice, which didn’t name Davis in a DOJ report released that year but wrote that “numerous prisoner-witnesses … reported that correctional officers continued to strike the prisoner after he dropped any weapons and posed no threat.”