A Cook County Jail inmate awaiting retrial on rape charges was charged Tuesday with fatally beating a cellmate in 2007.
County prosecutors said the investigation into John Lambert's death was reopened after a Tribune article last fall questioned the thoroughness of the initial probe and linked Lambert's cellmate to the death.Lambert was found unconscious in his cell with massive head injuries on June 26, 2007, his 25th birthday.
After he died 12 days later, the pathologist concluded that he had been beaten to death in a homicide.
The case seemed straight-forward. Lambert had a lone cellmate the night of his fatal injuries, and several inmates saw and heard the two quarreling in the days before Lambert suffered the head injuries.
But Lambert's cellmate, David Jamison, was never charged in the case -- until Tuesday.
He has been in the jail for years awaiting retrial on a rape conviction that had been overturned on appeal. Jamison, who is charged with first-degree murder in Lambert's death, is scheduled to be in Circuit Court Wednesday for a bond hearing.
Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for State's Atty. Anita Alvarez, said investigators interviewed previous witnesses and found new ones following the Tribune's front-page article headlined: "One Cell. 2 Inmates. One Killed. No One Charged?"
Lambert's parents, Ken and Susan, said they were elated by the charges.
"It's what we wanted all along, for someone to take some action. Hopefully, they've got the evidence they need to put him away," Lambert's father said.
The Lamberts want to know why their son, who battled drug addiction but had only relatively minor brushes with the law, was housed in a maximum-security division of the jail with a violent inmate during his 22-day stint.
The Lamberts' federal lawsuit against Sheriff Tom Dart and jail officials also alleges paramedics failed to respond to emergency calls from guards for help after Lambert was found unconscious in the cell. About 90 minutes passed before he was taken to the hospital and later had brain surgery, jail and hospital records show. The delay could have cost Lambert his life because he died of a blood hemorrhage that cut off oxygen to his brain. Prompt surgery can stem the damage.
"I need to know what happened," Susan Lambert said. "I need some answers. I am not going to let up until I am completely satisfied."
Lambert's death was among many examples cited last summer in a Justice Department report that found violence rampant in the jail.
Jamison told jail investigators that Lambert got the fatal injuries when he fell from the top bunk onto the floor, according to a confidential sheriff's police investigative report obtained by the Tribune. He declined to take a polygraph.
But one inmate who was housed nearby said he overheard Jamison later describe to several inmates how "he had punched Lambert in the back of the head ... and 'beat his brains in.'"
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