Rhode Island

US Supreme Court Declines to Hear RI Inmate's Case on Civil Death

U.S. Supreme Court
Susan Walsh/AP (File)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the case of a Rhode Island inmate serving life behind bars who had challenged the state's law that considers him "civilly dead."

The high court did not say why it would not hear Dana Gallop's case. The court traditionally takes up only a small percentage of the cases it is asked to review each year.

Gallop, of Boston, is serving two life sentences plus 45 years for fatally shooting a rival gang member outside a Providence nightclub in 2008. He was attacked in 2010 by another inmate with a razor and suffered permanent scarring to his face. He alleged in a lawsuit against the state prison system that guards were tipped off to the attack and looked the other way.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that Gallop can't sue because under state law, he is considered civilly dead. Rhode Island is one of the few places where inmates serving life in prison are deemed dead by state statute with respect to property rights, marriage and other civil rights, as if their natural death took place when they were convicted.

Gallop's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court challenged the constitutionality of the 1909 state law, which he said derived from laws that were used to "socially exclude and politically disenfranchise African Americans after the Civil War."

Gallop's attorney called the Supreme Court's decision "disappointing and depressing."

"This is a stupid rule that makes no sense," Ronald Resmini said, noting that someone's civil rights should be preserved no matter their situation.

J.R. Ventura, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, said the agency had no comment on the court's decision.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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