A judge ruled that prisoners who sued Gov. Nelson Rockefeller for the deaths incurred in the 1971 Attica prison uprising cannot recover damages from Rockefeller’s estate, it was reported Friday.
U.S. District Judge John Elfvin ruled Rockefeller’s estate is not financially responsible for the deaths of 39 people in the bloody siege before authorities regained control of the prison Sept. 13, 1971, the Buffalo News reported.
The $2-billion lawsuit was filed 14 years ago against Rockefeller and other state officials by lawyers for 1,281 Attica inmates.
The decision hurts the cause of the prisoners but helps Rockefeller’s heirs, who were blocked by the suit from inheriting his estate, worth more than $66.5 million.
The inmates can appeal to the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City.
Elfvin acknowledged that Rockefeller ordered State Police to retake rison, but said he was not legally responsible for the deaths that resulted. Rockefeller had no “personal involvement in unlawful or indiscriminate use of force in the retaking,” the judge wrote in the decision filed in Buffalo.
But Elfvin noted he was ruling only on Rockefeller’s role in the assault and not on whether improper force was used.
When police stormed the prison and crushed the uprising, 29 inmates and 10 of their hostages were killed.
Rockefeller died of a heart attack Jan. 26, 1979. His estate, then estimated at $66.5 million, has been tied up by liens placed on it by lawyers pressing the lawsuit.