Chief state medical examiner Margaret Greenwald, the doctor who made the decision not to look at Valdez's body, did not respond to the Phoenix's request for an explanation of her decision. Valdez's body never will be inspected for abuse. After prison officials secured permission from Valdez's elderly mother in New York, they cremated it.

Clamor for an investigation

Demanding an investigation into Valdez's death on behalf of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, Garvey — whose motherly demeanor belies her persistence and passion for justice — began a barrage of e-mails to state officials. The letters had kept flowing to her from inmates who wanted to testify to the guards' treatment of their friend. "Negligent murder," Cookson suspected. Why was no one interviewing them, they wanted to know?

Larry Parks, whose Close E cell was directly above Valdez's, wrote Garvey: "On November 19, 2009, [two correctional officers] physically abused Victor and I could hear him screaming in pain for whatever they were doing to him."

Several inmates who wanted to be interviewed had witnessed some of what Valdez encountered when he landed in the supermax. One was his friend Joel Olavarría Rivera, who wrote to Garvey in Spanish (here translated by Eda Trajo of El Centro Latino in Portland):

"I saw how the officers abused Victor Valdez. I saw the officers cover him with pepper spray and they took him away to check his blood pressure, and afterwards they put him back in the cell without cleaning the cell or him. When the officers put him back in his cell I could smell the pepper spray because it's so strong. And Victor fell on the floor and he stayed like that with all that stink of pepper spray.

"In 10 minutes they called code blue. When the medics came Victor was foaming at the mouth, which came from the pepper spray. They left the pepper spray on him and they didn't clean it. I thought he was dead because he was a sick man and the pepper spray made it difficult to breathe. The next day they brought him back one room closer to mine, and he tells me that they didn't want to take him to dialysis and that they forced him to sign a document that says he doesn't want to go to dialysis. And he doesn't read English and they don't even translate for him. He can't miss dialysis or he'll die and therefore they've forced him to sign for his own death."

Parks said Valdez "never bothered anyone." He was so well-liked by prisoners that some had talked about trying to find an inmate who could donate a kidney to him. On the other hand, Parks wrote, "numerous staff members kept provoking him because they didn't like having to come and get him three times a week at 5:30 in the morning for his kidney dialysis treatment."

Several prisoners cited this source of hostility toward Valdez on the part of some guards. Franklin Higgins, the man who saw Valdez being dragged into the infirmary, wrote that officers who took him to his regular dialysis appointments "scratched and bruised him up, pushed him into walls and doors . . . violently forced him to sign refusals so that they wouldn't have to transport him to his appointments."

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