In the fourth of a five-part series, the Detroit Free Press tells how Toni Bunton and other female Michigan inmates won $15.4 million from a jury in a case charging that the Michigan prison system ignored evidence of rape and molestations by male guards. Bunton was serving a 25- to 50-year sentence for her role in a drug deal that ended in murder. With attorney fees and interest, because the case was delayed for so many years, the total climbs to $40 million, says Deborah LaBelle, the lead lawyer for the women.
Something unusual happened: A female juror asked to read a statement. “We the members of the jury,” she began, “as representatives of the citizens of Michigan, would like to express our extreme regret and apologies for what you have been through.” The statement marked the first time anyone had apologized to the women. The trial judge said he never had heard of a jury making such a statement to a plaintiff. A similar verdict was issued last year. Including future caes, damages could add up to hundreds of millions in state taxpayer dollars.