Oak Park Family Seeks Justice, Treatment For Incarcerated Brother

A cell phone photo by Patricia Lester shows the coma-like condition of her brother Cliff Harris in UC Davis Medical Center. Harris is still in custody. The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office want to give Harris a “compassionate” release after he was beaten by a cellmate in the county jail.

OAK PARK — As Clifton Don “Cliff” Harris lies in a bed at UC Davis Medical Center in a near coma on a breathing machine after suffering from a beating by a cellmate in Sacramento County Jail, his family fights to ensure that the Sheriff’s Department keeps paying for his medical bill.

Harris had been in the jail since December 2015 after he was charged with two felonies, one for assault with a deadly weapon and the other for false imprisonment, court records say. He was convicted of the crimes and was waiting a sentencing.

But since he was attacked, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office wants to release Harris early on his own recognizance until his sentencing.

Member of his family want the Sheriff’s Department to be responsible for Harris’ care and are seeking justice for the crime against committed against him. The family says Cliff Harris has pneumonia and was moved to the intensive care unit of the hospital.

“They say they want to let him go now because he’s no longer a threat to society,” said Patricia Harris, one of Harris’ five sisters The OBSERVER interviewed in Oak Park. “He has blood clots and contusions. I’m like, ‘Man, that don’t look right. You’re telling me I have to take my brother home looking like that?’”

Cathy Lester, who is serving as the Harris family spokesperson, says Harris was in a vegetated state for at least 17 days before they found out about his condition. On July 3, Lester said, the family received a call from the Sheriff’s Department about Harris’ possible release.

There were attempts to contact a family member of Harris by the Sheriff’s Department, the sisters confirmed. But it was to no avail, Cliff’s sister Debra Harris said. Cathy Lester and Patricia Lester had visited Cliff Harris in the county jail about a month before they found him in his current condition.

“They said it would be a ‘compassionate release,’” Cathy Lester said. “Once we went to the hospital and saw that he was in a vegetated state, we were like, ‘What happened to him?’”

Cathy Lester told The OBSERVER that there were two previous court hearings to determine if Cliff Harris would be released from custody. But since Harris is in his current state, the judge said the inmate is not in a position answer to the request.

“They came up with a bail of $1,000,” Cathy Lester said. “But the judge said Cliff couldn’t sign off on it because he’s in a coma. So, how would he meet the terms of the bail?”

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office was able to confirm additional information about the case. Cliff Harris’ next court date is at 9:00 a.m., Friday, July 28, in Dept. 27 of the Sacramento County Courthouse, Shelly Orio, the PIO for the D.A.’s office, confirmed.
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer