Genesee County Public Defender Gary Horton ’71 was recently quoted in several news stories for his role as the pro bono attorney for “The Forgotten Victims of Attica,” a group made up of the widows of New York State Corrections Department employees killed during the 1971 Attica Prison riot, surviving hostages and family members.
This fall marks the 40th anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising, one of the deadliest prison riots in U.S. history, in which 43 people were caught in the crossfire of the officials’ retaking of the prison. In September, Horton was present for a memorial service held outside the correction facility in Attica, N.Y. – one of the conditions of the settlement agreement between “The Forgotten Victims of Attica” and the State. Horton worked pro bono to secure the group an annual memorial service, a $25 million settlement and state-financed counseling for all survivors.
The group also sought an apology and the opening of riot-related records that are still being held by the state. The state did not agree to those demands. The Democrat and Chronicle quoted Horton as saying, “The very records of what occurred here are still kept from you.”
In response to the state’s refusal to issue an apology, Your News Now quoted Horton as saying, “It’s not over. It hasn’t ended and they haven’t gotten the closure they need. Nobody ever said to them, gee, you know, it’s an awful thing that happened to you. I’m sorry. We acknowledged that you’re hurt.”
In The Daily News Online, Horton reflected on the turbulent times, saying, “[The prison riot and political demonstrations] were all part of that era.”
In recognition of his efforts, Horton received the prestigious David S. Michaels Memorial Award in 2006, honoring courageous efforts in promoting integrity in the criminal justice system, and the Wilfred R. O’Connor Award, which honors a public defense attorney in practice 15 or more years who exemplifies the client-centered sense of justice, persistence, and compassion that characterized the late Bill O’Connor’s life. He is also the recipient of Genesee County Mental Health Association’s Constance E. Miller Award for demonstrated commitment to excellence pertinent to the delivery and/or advocacy of quality community-based mental health services in Genesee County.
Horton was integral to the formation of Genesee County’s drug court, and in 2009 succeeded in getting the drug court’s Veterans Service Coordination and Mentoring program established. He is currently working with a group trying to make sure those returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan get the help they require.
For more than 20 years, Horton has defended countless people. During those years, he moved from being an assistant public defender up through the ranks to become full time head of the Genesee office in 1998. He is also a board member and chief defender at the New York State Defender’s Association.
Horton received his bachelor’s in political science from Hobart College in 1971. He went on to receive his law degree from Hofstra University in 1976.
Click the links below to read the full articles:
In the photo above from the Democrat and Chronicle, Gary Horton’71, lawyer for the Forgotten Victims of Attica, stops to gather himself as he talks about the continued fight for the victims at the ceremony in September.