Free Justin!

Despite well-documented injustice, a Pembroke Pines boy remains in jail

This past February 2, Justin celebrated his eighteenth birthday, his fifth behind bars. A few days later, he claims, an unnamed staff member held him by the back of his shirt and pushed him into a metal pole. His head was split open and doctors at a Jackson County Emergency Room closed the gash by placing metal staples in his forehead. "Staff said he fell," Caldwell barks.

"Since he's been at Dozier, he said he's made at least 25 calls to the complaint line," says Caldwell's attorney, Rick Reno. "Twice they were investigated. One time he was literally laughed at; the other time nothing was done."

On February 11, DJJ records show — some twelve hours before Speights allegedly beat Justin unconscious — the teenager was in a crowded dining hall where a staffer named James Wooden was distributing utensils. In a complaint filed a day later, Wooden states Justin elbowed and head-butted him without provocation. Fearing a riot, Wooden alleged he and two other staffers then restrained the boy until he calmed down.

E.F. Angel
Justin at age twelve
Justin at age twelve

DJJ investigators concluded Justin had committed battery on a staff member. Two days after the videotaped incident, Marianna police arrested the teenager and charged him with battery on a detention staff member — a third-degree felony. Police then transported him to Jackson County Correctional Institution. His trial is set for June 19. If he is found guilty he could face up to five years in prison.

But it didn't end there. Investigators also spoke with an unnamed juvenile at the facility who said: "[Justin] accidentally bumped into Wooden then Wooden slapped [Justin] in the head where his staples were Wooden then slammed [him] on the floor slamming his head into the floor once Wooden got up [he] went back to [Justin] and kicked him several times on the ground."

It's unclear whether this incident had any effect on McNeil's decision to fire Dozier's director. In any case, Justin remains in custody. "He's in adult jail on false charges," Mark Caldwell rants. "They did it on purpose to retaliate against my son for speaking out against them and all the stuff that goes on in there. I want him home, now!"

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