ANGLETON — Family members openly cried as Lou Joffrion III, a former prison guard at the Darrington Unit in Rosharon, was found not guilty of aggravated assault of an inmate who died from his injuries in 2017.
A Brazoria County jury deliberated for most of the morning Tuesday before breaking for lunch at noon. Shortly after 1 p.m., they announced they reached a verdict.
Joffrion was accused of causing severe injury to David Witt, a 41-year-old inmate who was acting in defiance on the morning of August 16, 2017, when Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison guards told him to go back to his cell and he refused.
Surveillance footage from the prison shown during the trial depicted a handcuffed Witt being lifted off the ground and forced face-first on the concrete by Joffrion.
Witt died later that day in a Galveston hospital after emergency surgery for a lacerated liver, medical experts said.
Jurors asked the court during their deliberation to review video evidence of the use of force incident involving Joffrion and Witt. Jurors reviewed the footage three times in slow motion before re-entering the deliberation room.
Houston defense attorney Connie Williams said the case could have gone either way.
“I’m surprised, I really was, weren’t you?” Williams said after the trial ended. “I think (Joffrion) is a good kid. I think he’ll have a good life. And I meant what I said during closing. Both these men were victims of the system. David shouldn’t have been there in the first place. And there should have been better training.”
Members of the prosecution team voiced their surprise by the jury’s decision and said the outcome wasn’t what they expected.
“We were disappointed in the verdict as is the family,” said special state prosecutor Jack Choate. “But we did our best to make sure this story was told and that it didn’t die in a dark part of a prison in Brazoria County ... You’ve got to make sure that in a democracy, justice exists in the darkest of places to people you don’t think deserve it.”
Every member of the jury declined to comment on their decision after the trial ended.