It was completely accidental.
No, not the shove that killed his cellmate. That was very much deliberate. It was pretty much a reflex, instinctive reaction to having his clothes nearly ripped from his body, his smaller, slighter frame slammed up against a wall, his last shred of dignity threatened with ruthless, violent destruction.
He was pretty sure anyone would have tried to shove the guy away.
The fact that the floor was damp in just the spot his cellmate's foot hit when he stumbled backward - the fact that the guy was just the right height for his subsequent backward fall to slam his head into the bars of their cell - the fact that he'd had a previous injury in a brawl a few weeks earlier that had left him with a barely healing skull fracture...
... all of that was pure, dumb luck.
Neal just wasn't sure if it was the good kind or not.
He stood there staring helplessly as the blood slowly pooled beneath the other man's head, too stunned even to right his own clothing as a chorus of voices yelling frantically around him swiftly drew the attention of the guards.
Two of them entered the cell, roughly grasping his arms, and he tried his best to submit, his heart sinking with sudden, awful clarity.
Three more years? Try something like twenty, now...
"I-I didn't..." His mouth was dry, his words uncharacteristically trembling. "It was... it was an accident..."
"Wait." A third guard appeared in the doorway. "I saw the whole thing from across the hall. It's true. Caffrey was just defending himself. I'll file a report later, just get this guy to the infirmary for now."
Neal already knew that it was too late.
As the two other guards walked away, he glared at the third, the one who had watched from a distance as he'd nearly been violated, and forced to take a life in order to save his own.
"That's the thing about a life sentence," the guard sneered with a careless shrug. "Never know how long it'll actually be." He smirked as he turned to walk away. "Guess we'd better see about getting you a new roommate, before you get lonely."