That article got the facts wrong. It wasn't San Jacinto County. It was Jacinto City in Harris County. I remember it well. I lived in Jacinto City at the time it happened. And the police chief there was Jamail, who was convicted and sent to prison for using water torture on prisoners in order to extract confessions from them.In 1983, the Department of Justice affirmed that the use of water torture techniques was
indeed criminal conduct under U.S. law. Sheriff James Parker of San Jacinto County, Texas, was
charged, along with three of his deputies, for handcuffing prisoners to chairs, placing towels over
their faces, and pouring water on the cloth until they gave what the officers considered to be
confessions. The officers were charged with violations of the prisoners’ civil rights.
Count One of the Indictment asserted that the defendants conspired to:
...subject prisoners to a suffocating “water torture” ordeal in order to coerce
confessions. This generally included the placement of a towel over the nose and
mouth of the prisoner and the pouring of water in the towel until the prisoner
began to move, jerk, or otherwise indicate that he was suffocating and/or
The Sheriff and his deputies were all convicted by a jury under Count One, (as well as
under other counts alleging constitutional violations for the same conduct), resulting in at least
a four year sentence on that Count. The trial included testimony of another former deputy that
the Sheriff and the other Defendants “gave [a prisoner] the water treatment:”
A towel was draped over his head. He was pulled back in the chair and water was
poured over the towel.
"Ex-Deputy Tells Jury of Jail Water Torture, New York Times, 1 September, 1983".
The victims’ testimony was strikingly familiar to other instances of water torture at other
times and places :
Q: Were you frightened?
Q: What were you afraid of?
A: Afraid of drowning; it was hard to breath.
Testimony of former inmate Kevin Coffman.
...My hands was handcuffed up under the table and water was poured into the face of the
towel until I started suffering a state of suffocation and I felt that my life was in danger.
Testimony of former inmate Craig Punch.
“I thought I was going to drown”
Testimony of former inmate James Hicks.
On an appeal by one of the deputies the Fifth Circuit described the trial below:
Lee was indicted along with two other deputies, Floyd Baker and James Glover,
and the County Sheriff, James Parker, based on a number of incidents in which
prisoners were subjected to a “water torture” in order to prompt confessions to
various crimes. On the morning trial was to begin, Floyd Baker's counsel
informed the court and his co-defendants that Baker intended to admit the
government's allegations were true but would argue that he did not have the “state
of mind” required for criminal liability. Lee, Glover and Parker each intended to
defend on the ground that they did not participate in any torture incidents and
were unaware that any such incidents were taking place. Counsel for the other
defendants immediately moved for severance. The district court deferred a ruling
on these motions pending some clarification of exactly what Baker's defense and
testimony would be.
At trial, Baker's defense as developed by his counsel and his testimony rested on
two points. The first was that he actively participated in only a single torture
episode, and then only because ordered to do so by his superiors-a “Nuremberg
defense.” The second was that while he believed the torture of prisoners immoral,
he did not at the time think it was illegal. In the course of Baker's testimony, he
identified Lee as a participant in the torture of several prisoners. Seven other
witnesses also connected Lee with various torture incidents. At the close of the
evidence, the district judge severed Baker, and put the case of the remaining
defendants to the jury. Lee was convicted on three counts.
Lee’s conviction was affirmed on appeal, and all the defendants received substantial
prison sentences. United States District Judge James DeAnda’s comments at sentencing were
telling. He told the former Sheriff that he had allowed law enforcement to “...fall into the hands
of a bunch of thugs....The operation down there would embarrass the dictator of a country.”
ExSheriff Given Ten Year Sentence, New York Times, 27 October, 1983 (emphasis added)
EDIT: I wonder if these are actually 2 different cases of the same crime.