KENNETH CHARLES

by Julian Heicklen

Kenneth Charles, inmate CD­1697 at the State Correctional Institute (SCI) at Rockview, was arrested in his cell at about 6:00 PM on the night of May 22, 1996. He was charged with being one of three inmates that assaulted a fourth inmate, Glenn Porter, inmate CMÐ8194 at about 5:00 PM that same day. Mr. Charles was placed in the Restrictive Housing Unit (RHUÑalso known as solitary confinement) on May 29, 1996, pending a hearing. Mr. Charles claimed that he did not know Mr. Porter. He asked that Mr. Porter be present at the hearing, so that he could question him.

The hearing was held on May 31, 1996. At the hearing, the only people present were the accused (Mr. Charles), the hearing examiner (J. Stidd), and a guard that took no part in the proceedings. The hearing examiner did not require that Mr. Porter be present at the hearing, even though Mr. Charles requested that he be present. When Mr. Charles was shown a picture of the victim, he claimed that he did not know him. No evidence was presented that Mr. Charles had a weapon. Until the hearing, Mr. Charles did not know who identified him as the assailant. At the hearing Mr. Charles was informed that Mr. Porter had identified him from a photo identification as one of the assailants. Of course Mr. Charles had no opportunity to question Mr. Porter, since he was not present. Mr. Charles was found guilty of assault and possession of the assault weapon (a screwdriver), even though the assault weapon was found in the possession of another inmate.

Mr. Charles was sentenced to disciplinary custody for 90 days in RHU, commencing May 29, 1996. The assault was reported to the state police and the district attorney, but the district attorney did not file criminal proceedings, presumably because of lack of evidence.

I spoke with Mr. Charles' cellmate on September 26, 1996. He stated that at the time of the assault, he and Mr. Charles were returning from the dining hall to their cell to play a game of chess. That is what they were doing when Mr. Charles was arrested at 6:00 PM. Mr. Charles cellmate was not present at the hearing and did not testify, because he was not called.

On August 15, 1996, while Mr. Charles was in RHU, he learned from a guard that the state police had filed a report that the screwdriver was on another individual. The report also stated that the three assailants were wearing hoods, and that Mr. Porter could not identify the other two assailants. The report was not presented at the hearing. I checked with State Police Trooper Sally Brown, who filed the police report, and she confirmed that the assailants were masked. This raises two questions: 1) How could Mr. Porter have identified Mr. Charles from a photo identification? 2) Why was Mr. Charles not provided with this information, and why was it withheld from the hearing proceedings?

Mr. Charles claims that he is innocent, and that he had no reasonable opportunity to prove it. He also wants to know "Why Captain Tressler wrote a false report without doing a full investigation?" Mr. Charles was eligible for parole on January 4, 1997. His sentence to disciplinary custody was used as a reason to deny him parole for at least two years at his parole board hearing of November 8, 1996.

What opinion do you think Mr. Charles has of American jurisprudence? Would you expect him to be motivated to obey the law when he leaves prison?