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Convicted Pa. murderer wins $35,000 settlement

| Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007

ERIE -- The state has agreed to pay $35,000 to settle a lawsuit by a convicted murderer who alleged that she was raped and assaulted by state prison staff.

In a 1996 lawsuit, Lisa Michelle Lambert, 34, accused administrators at the State Correctional Institution at Cambridge Springs of doing nothing to prevent the assaults. She also alleged that she was videotaped during a strip search.

Lambert alleged that the assaults happened while she was serving a life sentence for the 1991 murder of 16-year-old Lancaster high school sophomore Laurie Show. Lambert stalked and murdered Show because she thought the teen was romantically involved with her boyfriend.

Lambert's case helped lead to anti-stalking laws in Pennsylvania and spawned the 2000 TV movie, "The Stalking of Laurie Show."

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal of her conviction in June 2005. The state then asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed on the grounds of lack of evidence. A federal judge ruled in July, however, that there was enough evidence for the lawsuit to proceed to trial.

Under the agreement reached late last month, the defendants admit no wrongdoing, and the state agreed to let Lambert continue serving her time in Massachusetts.

Lambert said she was raped or sexually assaulted by one guard between March and October 1994, subjected to "sexually tainted" assaults by another between May 1993 and October 1994, and stripped naked and filmed by guards.

One guard was convicted of indecently assaulting Lambert in 1996 and sentenced to 1 1/2 to 3 years in prison.

The state Department of Corrections declined comment on the case, but spokeswoman Susan McNaughton said the department does not tolerate fraternization between inmates and staff and all substantial allegations are turned over to police.

Lambert's lawyer, Angus Love of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, called the settlement amount "low." He said his client was concerned that jurors might be told about her conviction which "could have poisoned the minds for (her) plea for compassion for the sexual assaults she suffered."

In addition, he said, Lambert did not want to "fan the flames" of the publicity that has surrounded her case for years. She is now taking college classes offered by Boston University in the Massachusetts prison and "wants to put all this behind her," Love said.

Lambert spent more than a decade in a New Jersey prison. Her co-defendant is serving a life term at the state prison at Muncy, the only other Pennsylvania state prison for women. Her ex-boyfriend pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and was released to a halfway house in 2005.

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