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Family is seeking to hold ADOC accountable, seeking legal representation

Gerald Cochran Jr. would’ve seen his family in person for the first time in years on July 16 — but he didn’t make it.

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Gerald Cochran Jr. or “Dee King” would have seen his family in person for the first time in years on July 16 but before he could see them he died while incarcerated at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility the night of June 30 extending into July 1. Now his family is seeking to hold the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) accountable. 

His mother, Melissa Lampkins, told APR that she and her daughter, Alexandria Cochran, were initially told about Gerald’s death from an incarcerated individual at approximately 11 p.m on June 30, not ADOC. That is when Lampkins, Alexandria, family members and even friends began bombarding the Donaldson Facility with calls but Lampkins said the facility gave them the “run around” and did not give any information about her son’s status. 

Lampkins stated that it was not until around 2:30 to 3:00 a.m. on July 1 that the prison chaplain called her and informed her that Gerald had passed. According to a report from AL.com, Gerald was announced dead at 12:14 a.m. 

Lampkins believes that her son passed away well before that, however. The incarcerated individuals noticed Gerald was quiet and tried to get the officers to check on him but the guards brushed off their concerns. Lampkins believes it was over two to three hours before correctional officers finally found her son unresponsive in his cell. 

Gerald was also in a segregated, isolated cell when he was finally discovered.

“They’re supposed to make rounds every 18 to 30 minutes,” Lampkins said of the correctional officers. “So even if they were making their rounds, they weren’t making thorough rounds. Like they weren’t really checking on them.”

The family is still not sure what his cause of death was but said he had a history of seizures since childhood. 

Apparently, he also had not been taking his medicine while incarcerated for three to four years but the family is unsure why he stopped taking it. Alexandria said that the guards should have been checking on him due to his potential to have seizures, being isolated and how hot it may have been. 

APR spoke to a source in Donaldson who said the guards often are not making their rounds and falsify documents stating that they did so. They said that if someone checked the cameras it would show the guards not making their rounds every 30 minutes.

Lampkins had not seen her son in person since 2018. She said that Gerald had called her the morning he passed away and said, “Momma you can come visit me on the 16th I got my visits back.” 

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Gerald also left behind three children, a 12-year-old and two 9-year-olds. Lampkins said he was a great father who loved his kids and spoke with them all the time through phone or video chat. However, the two 9-year-olds never got the opportunity to see their dad in person. 

A source said they spoke to Gerald a few hours prior to his death and said that Gerald mentioned his excitement to see his children and family on July 16. Gerald also had another sister and a brother along with Alexandria.

Lampkins said that she and her family are currently looking for legal representation to hold ADOC accountable, not just for the death of Gerald but the countless families harmed due to their loved ones dying in Alabama’s prisons. 

“That prison had over 40 people to die last year and my son is the 17 person to die this year,” Lampkins said. “People need to understand the horrors that go on in these prisons. They treat these men and women inhumanely and they throw them back in segregation and leave them back there where it’s hot or it’s cold. Whatever season it is. You know, like [Gerald’s] death could have been prevented.”

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“His entire twenties was spent in prison,” Lampkins said. “This pain I’m feeling right now I can’t even describe it… I feel like if they were doing their job and treating these men like human beings, his death could have been avoided.”

Alexandria added that her mom will never be okay again. 

Gerald was sentenced out of Houston County in 2014 but this was under trumped up charges after a corrupt prosecutor became upset that he did not take the plea deal according to Lampkins.


Lampkins wants her son to be remembered as a great father and a smart, loving person. She said Gerald was an athlete who loved to rap and made everyone smile. Lampkins said she is seeking justice for him and everyone harmed by the negligence of ADOC.

“You think your child is going to do their sentence and they’re going to come back home to you,” Lampkins said. “And to get a call saying that your child passed away in a one man cell by himself…they’re really not rehabilitating these people. That’s what it’s supposed to be for not throw them in there and treat them like animals. And it makes me want to fight for them not just for my son but all of them. Somebody has to be their voice. Those 57 men who have died. Somebody has to have the courage to speak up.”

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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