Smith inquest continues with guard’s tearful testimony
Published Tuesday, February 19, 2013 4:55PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 19, 2013 6:26PM EST
A guard at Kitchener’s Grand Valley Institution for Women testified Tuesday that she felt Ashley Smith was treated inhumanely.
Michelle Lombardo, one of two guards present outside Smith’s cell as she died, was the latest witness at the inquest into Smith’s in-prison suicide in 2007.
She said over the course of several months working at the prison, she came to know and like Smith.
Her testimony was punctuated by the release of new video from inside Grand Valley, showing guards clad in helmets and shields greet Smith upon her return to the prison.
When Smith refuses a strip search, the guards spray her with pepper spray.
A few days later, Smith was taken to hospital when guards discovered two ligatures in her vagina.
“They removed an approximately 16-inch ligature, and it was green cloth,” Lombardo testified.
“Then she had another one that was large enough to be tied around her midsection.”
Not long after, Smith was again placed in segregated custody.
Lombardo said that’s when she began to question some of the rules the prison placed on Smith, including limiting her toilet paper.
“To say ‘You can only have two squares right now,’ I just think is inhumane,” she said.
Lombardo said that eight days before Smith’s suicide, the warden of Grand Valley ordered a special training session for his guards because they were going into Smith’s cell too often, which reflected poorly on the prison.
“Other than telling us that we weren’t to be going into her cell anymore, he did mention that she was going to die by death by misadventure,” she testified.
When Smith tied a cord around her neck eight days later, guards stayed out of Smith’s cell. Lombardo, who was present outside the cell, said that’s because they were following the guidance given to them at the training session.
Also outside Smith’s cell were a second guard and the prison chaplain, who asked the guards to pray with him after Smith’s death.
“He came in and said ‘Would you guys come back and say a prayer with me?’ and we did,” said Lombardo.
Smith’s mother is scheduled to take the stand Wednesday.
Ashley Smith is shown surrounded by guards in this image made from video at the Joliette Institution in Joliette, Que., July 26, 2007. (Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario)
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