Parental Warning - Strong Adult Content, Violence, Prison Scenes, (including a Murder caught on camera)
Gladiator Days: Anatomy of A Prison Murder, an HBO documentary – where a film crew visited multiple prisons throughout the United States, interviewing inmates, prosecutors and guards – many of the clips displayed at the beginning will be quickly recognized as they have aired on national news outlets. (The “Yard Fights” in California, the prisoner being attacked by a dog while offering no resistance, rioting, etc., etc.)However, the documentary focuses on an inmate on inmate assault and subsequent homicide, captured by the Central Utah Prison security cameras. (Central is located in Draper, Utah)
Troy Kell, at the age of 18, was originally sentenced to life without parole, for a murder that took place in 1986, in his home-state of Nevada. A friend of his, Sandy Shaw, asked Troy to stop a man from harassing her & her family, b/c he wanted her to pose nude. Troy Kell, nor the second boy, William, knew the victim – had never met him and would have had no reason whatsoever to attack the man had it not been for the female codefendant. William, had stolen the gun used in the crime from a neighbor’s home, made it available to Troy the night of the crime & it was subsequently located by Las Vegas PD in his home. The murder of 21 year old Cotton Kelly, in the desert, became known as the “Show & Tell Murder” because the female co-defendant, Sandy Shaw, returned to the seen of the crime multiple times showing the corpse off to her friends. One of the people that had seen this horrific scene reported it to the police.
Kell was transferred to Central Utah Prison as part of a prisoner exchange – and that is where he met Eric Daniels – a white supremacist, with multiple tattoos reflecting his personal ideologies – Daniels was initially sent to prison on a minimal forgery charge. He participated in a riot, was placed in solitary confinement & six months later he actively participated in every aspect of the attack and subsequent homicide.
The security tape that captured the attack is chilling, albeit incomplete – and at first seems to have nothing more to offer than a grotesque view of what humans are capable of doing to each other under certain conditions. However, there’s much more to be discerned from the tape, as well as, the documentary as a whole, if it is viewed with an unbiased, neutral opinion. For example, the extenuating circumstances that allowed three high risk inmates to be left, unsupervised in such close proximity of each other, the hand cuff key, the forged request, allowing an inmate that is on “lock-down” out of their cell, and lastly the amount of time that elapses before any authority figure intervenes – is absolutely reprehensible. (Considering the guards had access to multiple forms of non-lethal weaponry – and yet, not a single voice calls out over the intercom for the inmates to separate, “rack in”, get prone, nothing….Look at the time on the video – the difference between when the first blow was struck and when the victim receives CPR is well over an hour….)
Yes, there are parts of the video that are hard to watch, making it all the more important to not look away! Turning away, shielding ourselves from that which is ugly, unsightly and harsh is what allows this inhumane environment to exist in prison. Placing a non-violent criminal in a supermax facility, sentencing an 18yr old young man to LWOP set all this in motion. What possible good could come from such sentences? When a person is given no chance to do anything positive or constructive…when all hope has been forever erased… what is left? For those in prison…it’s simple – become the meanest, baddest, toughest individual in the house…why? To avoid being abused, defiled and degraded in the worst, most inhumane manner imaginable. And with 90% of inmates eligible for parole at some point in their lifetimes, these hardened, hardcore people will return to our communities and live in our neighborhoods,bringing with them all the hate, anger and bitterness the system instilled in them during their incareration.
I recommend anyone that is interested in “true crime,” human behavior, criminal justice, etc., and all parents should view this documentary, to familiarize themselves with the reality of the prison system – so as to better educate and hopefully deter their children from pursuing a similar path. An excellent tool for alternative schools and programs to utilize – without saying a word, with the simple push of a button the instructor can open the eyes of at risk youth…erasing the glamor and mystique so often associated