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Newell in 'super max' cell

December 05, 2000

Newell in 'super max' cell



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Michael Newell, the man convicted of murdering his 7-year-old niece in Berkeley County two years ago, has been moved to a maximum security unit at the West Virginia state prison for taking part in a demonstration at the complex, the warden said Tuesday.

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Newell, who is serving a life sentence at the prison, was one of 278 inmates who staged a sit-down demonstration at the Mt. Olive Correctional Complex on Oct. 2, said Warden Howard H. Painter.

The demonstration started over a new policy at the prison that controlled how much personal property inmates can have, Painter said.

Painter said he was willing to be flexible on some parts of the policy and began meeting with inmate representatives to find some common ground on the issue.

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There was a lot of miscommunication among inmates about what was being discussed, and inmates began making other demands regarding food service, medical care and other services, Painter said.

On Oct. 2, inmates walked off their jobs at the prison, gathered in the prison yard, and demanded that Painter meet with them to discuss the issues.

"We just don't do that," Painter said.

Prison officials ordered the inmates to come back from the yard, but most of them refused, Painter said.

Through a count conducted of inmates, prison officials determined who was staging the demonstration in the yard, Painter said.

Prison officials were finally able to get inmates back in their cells by about 3 a.m. the next day, Painter said.

Newell, one of the inmates who refused to come in off the yard, has been placed in a maximum security unit for his role in the demonstration, Painter said.

Newell is being held in the unit, referred to as a "super max" cell, for 23 hours a day, Painter said. Newell also cannot have any contact with the general population at the prison, which is in Mt. Olive, a town about 45 miles east of Charleston, Painter said.

Painter said he is not familiar with all the details surrounding Newell's case, but he believes Newell will be kept in the maximum security unit until sometime next month.

"This is not the first time he's been in a lockdown. He's not real cooperative sometimes," Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Tuesday.

Some inmates received stiffer penalties.

Prison officials identified 18 inmates who allegedly started the demonstration, and some of those inmates were sentenced up to two years in the super maximum unit, Painter said.

A jury in Berkeley County convicted Newell of murdering his niece, Jessica Newell, in September 1997. The prosecution contended that Newell killed her after she resisted his attempts to molest her.

Newell appealed his conviction to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals but the high court turned down the appeal, Games-Neely said. Newell may seek a new trial through what is called a habeas corpus petition, although one has not been filed, Games-Neely said.

Earlier this year, a judge appointed a new lawyer for Newell, who stated he wants legal assistance to challenge his murder conviction.

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