Each day over the past month, a prisoner at the Clarke County Jail awaiting trial on criminal charges has been taken to the courthouse in downtown Athens and locked up for 10 hours in a basement holding cell.
That’s because in addition to drug trafficking charges faced by Kenyatta Latroy Campbell, the 32-year-old inmate refused to comply with a judge’s order to provide a DNA sample in a child support case.
“The court orders (Campbell) to be brought to the courthouse and held available to give (DNA) swabs each day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. until he agrees to provide the swabs or until further order of the court,” Western Judicial Circuit Chief Judge David Sweat wrote in a May 17 order.
Campbell has been shuttled back and forth between the jail and courthouse every day since.
Campbell’s attorney on Wednesday wrote a letter to the judge, complaining of unconstitutional “cruel and unusual” punishment of his client.
“(He) is being held every day in a cell approximately 12×16 feet which is crowded with anywhere from five to 20 prisoners at a time,” attorney James Smith wrote in the letter.
“I can imagine no more serious and cruel punishment than keeping a person shackled 10 hours a day every day in a crowded cell in a dimly lit holding cell in a courthouse and there is no legal reason for doing so,” the attorney said. “I write this letter hoping you will see the attack on humanity of such treatment.”
According to Smith, his client has suffered sores and cuts from being shackled for such long periods of time. Further, the attorney states in the letter, he is unable to have private discussions with Campbell while surrounded by other prisoners, nor can his client make telephone calls.
Despite Smith’s claim that Sweat’s order was illegal, other attorneys said that judges have the authority to hold people in contempt and lock them up when they refuse to comply with orders in civil matters. Under Georgia law, judges are authorized to require DNA samples in child support cases.
The attorney also asked Sweat to rescind his order because under the Georgia constitution, Campbell has the right to refuse to give DNA that “could very well be incriminating in his criminal case.”
Tom Camp, an Athens attorney who specializes in both criminal and family law, doubts that any DNA collected from Campbell in the child support case could be used for the pending criminal trial.
“I have not researched this thoroughly, but it is my belief that if a DNA test is ordered for a specific purpose in a child support case, the state could not test that DNA for other purposes,” he said. “Of course, if the district attorney or law enforcement felt they needed a DNA sample from this individual and had probable cause to pursue a warrant, they could get a search warrant.”
Camp knows of previous cases in which judges have jailed people for contempt of court in various civil matters, he said, but “I’ve never seen it done in this particular context.”
Under Sweat’s order, Campbell could be brought from the jail to the courthouse holding cell “indefinitely” until he complied with the order to provide a DNA sample, according to Camp.
Campbell, who has been in jail since December 2011, is alleged by authorities to have headed an organization responsible for trafficking large amounts of marijuana into the Athens area from the Southwest, where he has another pending criminal case in Arizona. Authorities allege that in addition to importing more than 2,500 pounds of pot, the organization laundered more than $1.5 million in the year leading up to Campbell’s arrest.