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DU student lawyers go to trial, accuse state of cruel and unusual punishment | Events

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DU student lawyers go to trial, accuse state of cruel and unusual punishment
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University of Denver Sturm College of Law students suing Colorado prison officials will get their week in court starting April 30, representing a mentally ill inmate who has been held in solitary confinement and denied medical treatment for more than a decade.

Student lawyers leading the case – Brenden Desmond, Katy Hartigan and Maha Kamal – are representing mentally ill inmate Troy Anderson. The team will present in a federal trial scheduled for eight days, practicing under a federal student lawyer provision and supervised by law professor Brittany Glidden. Denver civil rights law firm Fox & Robertson will serve as co-counsel.


The case, filed in 2010, alleges authorities are denying Anderson medical care and are violating federal law by withholding medication, holding him indefinitely in solitary confinement without a legal process to question the confinement, and denying treatment ordered by the prison system’s own doctors.


Anderson, 42, has been in solitary confinement and has not been outside or felt the sun on his skin in more than a decade. The suit does not seek his release from prison. Attorneys are asking the court to order proper medical treatment and medications for Anderson. In addition, the suit seeks an end to an arbitrary prison demerit system that blocks Anderson from earning his way out of solitary. A change in the demerit system could affect prison inmates statewide.


Because of his mental illness, which causes erratic behavior when he is not medicated, Anderson has been in jail or prison for 26 of his 42 years. Prison officials have insisted that Anderson must remain in solitary confinement until these behaviors are controlled, yet they refuse to provide him medications prescribed by the prison’s own doctors, according to the suit. His attorneys say as a result he risks being incarcerated for the rest of his life, largely because of a mental illness.


By practicing law in real trials in real courtrooms, participating Denver Law students earn valuable experience. The cases students take on in the University’s clinical program are actual cases with real outcomes, part of Denver Law’s mission to graduate lawyers who are ready to practice law from the day they pass the bar exam.   


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