July 13, 2015, was supposed to be inmate Danny Glover’s wedding day at Apalachee Correctional Institute. Instead, it became the day a brutal beating by prison officers left him in critical condition.
PANAMA CITY — Hospital staff have a protocol of keeping a prisoner patient's door shut. But in the four days after accepting inmate Darren Glover into the ICU on July 13, 2015, they diverged from that protocol out of fear they wouldn't reach him in time if he flat-lined.
After his release less than a week later, his eyes still swollen shut from being severely beaten by correction officers at Apalachee Correctional Institute, he was moved to a solitary concrete box at Florida State Prison — where conditions are considered to be worse than those for death row inmates — for “maximum management” as part of his punishment based on the reports the officers wrote after the beating. More than 100 summer days passed before Glover was transferred to a lower level of confinement — though still in closed management — where he remained until this January, when a jury found that the guard charged in the beating falsified his report.
In that time, a technicality caused his interracial marriage, which had led to the beating, to become official. However, Darren and Jennifer Glover had to wait more than two years before they could have their first kiss as husband and wife.
“That’s a long time to be in confinement for something you didn’t do,” Jennifer Glover said. “We had to talk through glass. We weren’t allowed to be in the same room or hold hands or have a meal together like normal visiting couples. And we couldn’t kiss — until the verdict came down.”
Jennifer Glover recently sat down for an interview with The News Herald to discuss the events leading up to what the indictment described as a racially motivated beating, the punishment her husband endured as result of falsified use-of-force reports, and the trauma the two still live with as they await Darren Glover’s release from prison in 2019.
Former Maj. Michael Baxter, 49, of the Apalachee Correctional Institution in Sneads, was convicted of filing false reports in the case and faces up to 10 years in federal prison but acquitted of a charge of using excessive force. He did not respond to a request for comment.
The case is one in a string of regional inmate beatings by officers to go before U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle for sentencing, but Baxter is the highest ranking officer in recent cases to be criminally indicted and convicted. With Baxter's sentencing set for this Thursday, Jennifer Glover has called for the judge to at least hand a term of imprisonment reflective of the time her husband was held in confinement for Baxter’s false reports: 30 months.
“I don’t think he should do a day less,” she said.
A $40 crack deal landed Darren Glover in prison in 2007. It was his second narcotics-related conviction, and he also had a firearm. As a convicted felon, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
He and Jennifer, who had known each other since high school and were dating at the time of his arrest, decided to get married while Darren was incarcerated for practical reasons: a wife can get more access to an inmate than a girlfriend. But she didn't realize the degree of pushback the couple would receive for being different races.
“It was a common theme,” Jennifer Glover said of the culture of racism she saw, noting that she didn’t think it would eventually lead to physical violence. “And the day before the wedding, we were warned. One officer told us a lot of people don’t want to see us married. I would’ve backed down if I knew (Darren) would be in danger.”
A day before the beating, the couple was shooting wedding photos in the visitation yard. Jennifer Glover said she had been flirtatiously trying to get Darren to smile for the camera when she overheard an officer say, “I don’t want to see that (expletive).” An officer also issued Darren a complaint for his shoes being loose during the photo shoot.
The couple brushed it off, but the next morning, July 13, 2015 — moments before the Glovers were scheduled to get married — Baxter called Darren Glover to his office to discuss the loose shoes. There, Baxter head-butted Darren Glover, and then officers held him down while Baxter repeatedly kicked him in the face, according to government witnesses.
Despite the bride-to-be waiting in the lobby at the time, officers did not tell Jennifer Glover about the events, saying only that the wedding would not take place. As her fiancée was taken to ICU, Jennifer Glover was also not made aware of the critical nature of his injuries until a couple of inmates called her late the following day. She couldn't reach Darren, but hospital staff relayed his condition.
“The nurse cried when she was telling me about his injuries,” Jennifer Glover said.
In maximum management after leaving ICU, Darren Glover couldn’t see for nine days. He lost 40 pounds in the 101 total days of isolation. Jennifer Glover made a plea for mercy to the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), which eventually worked, but it would be just the first in a string of battles to have the wrongs of the beating righted.
Ultimately, Baxter was convicted in January of this year for falsifying reports that led to Darren Glover’s confinement. A jury found that he did not use excessive force, though. Shortly after the verdict, FDOC began the process of reversing some of the damage.
In an almost unprecedented move, FDOC reversed Baxter’s battery on an officer reports and restored Darren Glover’s gain time of a year and a half that had been taken away as a result of the allegations.
Jennifer Glover said she repeatedly told Darren that if the officers tried to provoke him, do not resist, and she would get justice for him. When he was finally able to talk on the phone, Darren told her he kept repeating that to himself during the beating.
“The only thing he said was that he didn’t do anything,” Jennifer Glover said. “He just fell to the ground and put his arms by his sides.”
Jennifer Glover said her husband still has scars and vision problems from the beating, but the damage lingers below the surface as well. She said Darren’s spirit was changed by not defending himself during the beating, and he still has flashbacks. The trauma also has had an impact on their relationship.
“I'm scared to hold his hand or show him any affection, because I don’t want the officers to do anything,” Jennifer Glover said. “The last time I kissed him, he got beat.”
The beating isn’t the first of its kind for correction officers at nearby prisons. U.S. District Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Christopher Canova, whose office has been prosecuting the cases, declined to comment on the topic.
However, Mike Stone, chair of the Bay County American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said inmate beatings perpetrated by officers violates two Constitutional Amendments — the Eighth, which protects people from enduring cruel and unusual punishment, and the Fifth, which guard against the deprivation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without due process.
“When an officer beats an inmate, he deprives him of due process,” Stone said.
Stone said a prison sentence is meant to be a debt for a prisoner to pay before being released. The act of beating an inmate sends the message that prisoners have no human value, and they carry that with them once they are released. Stone advised policy makers should look at the European penal system, where he said shorter sentences and less harsh conditions foster a safer environment for guards and prisoners alike.
Stone, a local defense attorney, said his clients' families often agree their loved one should pay for their crime. But there is a danger factor, which often pushes them toward fighting charges and chancing a lengthier sentence.
"No one wants a prison sentence to become a death sentence," he added.
FDOC officials said they have taken steps toward preventing officer-perpetrated beatings and have had no significant cases in recent history. Some of those steps have been to add more cameras in areas of the prisons and added more Office of Inspector Generals (OIG) to investigate reports from inmates and staff.
“These indictments do not in any way represent the thousands of FDC officers who work bravely and diligently to ensure the safety of the individuals in our custody," wrote Michelle Glady, FDOC director of communications. "The Department has zero tolerance for officer misconduct, and we respond rapidly whenever these cases do occur. Any officer found to be engaging in unauthorized use of force is immediately investigated by the Department’s Office of the Inspector General and is subject to dismissal and criminal charges.”
While FDOC is said to be attempting to correct the faults in Florida's penal system, local recent history has not cast a favorable light on the agency.
In December, Gulf Correctional Institute Sgt. Willie L. Walker was sentenced to spend 21 months in federal prison followed by a year of supervised release and ordered to forfeit his retirement benefits from his time as an officer. He faced 10 years after being convicted of attacking inmate William Hernandez in March 2015 and leaving him with severe injuries, including a fractured nose and head wound that required several staples.
Walker, without cause, sprayed Hernandez with pepper spray, or O.C. spray, and began to punch and kick him, according to court records.
“Walker also hit Hernandez in the head with the O.C. spray can, causing further injury,” officials reported. “After Hernandez fell to the floor, Walker continued to punch and kick Hernandez.”
In an attempt to establish that he had acted in self-defense, Walker planted a homemade weapon or “shank.” Walker also falsified reports, which has been a recurring theme among officer attacks on inmates. Walker was the first in several recent cases, though, to receive prison time.
In August 2015, a group of officers dubbed “The Chipley Five” conspired to attack inmate Jeremiah Tatum. All five of the former prison guards — William Finch, James Perkins, Robert Miller, Christopher Christmas and Dalton Riley — were fired from the Northwest Florida Reception Center in Washington County and sentenced to either probation or house arrest. Capt. James Kirkland, who orchestrated the attack as a form of retaliation, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound before he could be prosecuted.
At the sentencing, Hinkle said in court that had Kirkland been alive and convicted, the punishment would have been much more severe for him as the supervisor and orchestrator of the attack.
Tatum also sustained serious injuries, including several broken teeth, and sued the surviving officers and the FDOC, but the case was dismissed in early October after an undisclosed out-of-court settlement.
Darren Glover's case is not the first time Baxter has been the subject of federal court hearings in connection with inmate abuse allegations.
Baxter was dismissed in September after about 30 years of service with FDOC, at one point reaching the prominent rank of colonel. In that time, Baxter was the subject of numerous complaints from inmates accusing him of using excessive force as he rose in rank. In many cases, the inmates' claims were found by inspectors to be unsubstantiated or investigative leads ran dry, FDOC records stated.
On a couple of occasions, however, the outcome was not favorable to Baxter, including a case that occurred when he was a colonel.
In 2013, Baxter and a group of officers were sued in federal court for abuse by then-inmate Dwight Porter, who also is a black man. He alleged the group of officers at Graceville Correctional Institute threatened to “bust his head to the white meat and kick him asleep” if he refused to work because of a pre-existing shoulder injury or gave them any more trouble, the complaint stated.
After slipping in the prison kitchen and going to the infirmary in 2008, Porter said the officers made good on the threat inside a supervisor’s office, beating him and allegedly spitting in his face while calling him racial slurs. Porter specifically named Baxter among the officers as “roughing” him up and twisting his injured arm.
“They all said that if (Porter) tells this to anybody, he would die,” the complaint states. “And he would still be working in the kitchen.”
Baxter and some of the officers, including the assistant warden, settled the lawsuit outside of court as the trial date approached. Porter asked for $500,000 in damages, but the amount was not disclosed in court records.
Some time afterward, Baxter was demoted to major.
With Baxter scheduled to face a judge Thursday, Baxter’s attorneys have called for a new trial because the jury found him guilty of one charge but not guilty of a second. In the response from U.S. Attorney’s Office, prosecutors argued against the request and indicated the officers who testified on Baxter’s behalf during his trial could face perjury charges.
Jennifer Glover said the perjury charges should go all the way up to the ACI Warden Tony Barfield’s office, too, because he signed off on the falsified reports. She called on FDOC to at least reprimand the warden but seemed to believe that would never happen.
“All this happened under his watch, and he is still making decisions” Jennifer Glover said. “That doesn’t show to me that this is an agency trying to clean up its act.”
Jennifer Glover said with her husband’s gain time restored after the jury’s verdict, she is looking forward to him getting out in July 2019. She said the two plan on starting a family and running their own business. But after the experience of being targets of racial violence, they will be doing it someplace other than the South.
“I just want to get as far away as possible,” she said.