BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A lawsuit filed by the mother of an inmate who was killed and dismembered can proceed against a prison sergeant who placed the man in the same cell as convicted murderer Jamie Osuna.
U.S. District Judge Dale Drozd ruled Tuesday it’s plausible to infer Sgt. Joseph Burns and other unidentified guards at Corcoran State Prison “responsible for the day-to-day implementation of cellmate selection decisions were aware that Osuna should not be celled with another inmate and, relatedly, that this was because he posed a serious danger to others.”
At the time of Romero’s death, Osuna was serving life without parole for the torture-murder of Yvette Pena in Bakersfield. Drozd noted the suit included a photo of Osuna — who has numerous facial tattoos and what appears to be an inverted pentagram on his forehead — that could support an inference he was an “obvious risk to others.”
The judge said Dora Solares, mother of slain inmate Luis Romero, can file a second amended complaint and proceed with the suit against Burns. The suit alleges Romero made a personnel complaint against Burns and the sergeant retaliated by placed him in the same cell with “violent psychopath” Osuna.
Drozd, however, dismissed Ralph Diaz, former secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and Ken Clark, warden at Corcoran State Prison, as defendants. The judge found Solares failed to adequately establish claims of wrongful death and negligent supervision against them.
Drozd ruled Solares had failed to establish the warden could have foreseen procedures for housing inmates would be ignored in this case.
Romero, 44, was beheaded and other body parts were removed after a bedsheet was placed over the window to the cell he shared with Osuna the night of March 8, 2019. The suit alleges guards failed to conduct safety checks and ignored loud noises coming from the cell.
“During the night, Osuna murdered and dismembered Romero with a homemade weapon in a particularly gruesome fashion,” the suit says.
Romeo was serving life without parole for a murder in Los Angeles County in 1992.
Kings County prosecutors have brought charges including murder against Osuna. He has previously been found incompetent to stand trial but psychiatrists who monitored his behavior in a psychiatric inpatient program have filed reports stating he has regained competency.
Kings County Superior Court Judge Randy Edwards is expected to rule on those findings later this month. If he finds Osuna competent, the murder case will move forward.