LAVELT DUVERNE SUICIDE GRIPS SAN QUENTIN
“When I returned to my cell, I instinctively knew something was wrong,” Danny Cox said. “There was a sheet on the door blocking the view inside the cell and it was dark. I called his name three or four times. ‘Lavelt’ But he didn’t answer.”
Cox spent five days in Administrative Segregation until cleared by prison authorities regarding the suicide of his cellie, Lavelt Duverne.
Cox found Duverne on his knees slumped over. “I saw him hanging,” said Cox. “I saw a sight I pray no one will ever have to see. I left for work at 6:30 in the morning we said good-bye, like we normally did. But I came back early at 2:30,” said Cox. He was supposed to work with other prisoners on a scheduled prison event, called “The Day of Peace.”
Cox said he reported finding Duverne to the North Block correctional officers immediately.
Subsequently prison authorities followed the policy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation by placing Cox in The Hole pending an investigation. “Once a person is traumatized like this, placing them in The Hole isn’t conducive to their mental health,” Cox said. “God gave me strength, but another man might not be strong enough.”
Every prisoner housed in North Block was interviewed by mental health services.
In 2011, Duverne, 39, a native of Haiti, suffered a heart attack while waiting to attend a class at Prison University Project (PUP). Afterwards, San Quentin medical placed him on several medications for his heart condition. “Duverne complained to me that the pills were interfering with his sleep,” Cox said. “When he did sleep, it was a minimum of three hours.”
Kara Urion, PUP program assistant, said all of Duverne’s teachers contacted her, distraught at hearing the news. They commented about Duverne’s engaging and intelligent conversation.
“My final prayer would be to contact his mom and let her know that he was a wonderful person,” said Cox. “But I saw no signs or symptoms,” Cox said. “It just happened spontaneously.”
“I really felt honored to hear him teach our research class about the importance of universal health care,” said Juan Haines. “I find it somewhat ironic that his last public words would be on a subject like that. He was also a member of the San Quentin Journalism Guild, and a concerned citizen of Haiti.”