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Wrongful Death Suit Concludes, Sheriff Could Face Judgment

A wrongful death suit filed against a Louisiana sheriff regarding an inmate's death eight years ago has concluded. A judge in the case will be rendering a verdict, though it is not clear when that ruling will be handed down. The inmate's wife had filed the wrongful deathsuit against the government official after her 39-year-old husband died in an incident at the Orleans Parish Prison. The House of Detention where the inmate perished has since been closed. 

Experts testified that the sheriff's office was unable to keep inmates and detainees safe during their stay at the House of Detention. Further, attorneys in the case argued that deputies routinely abused the victim by improperly restraining him and failing to provide necessary medical attention. It also appears that inmates at that facility were able to open their own cell doors, which may have led to the incident that ultimately killed the victim.

The series of events began in 2006, when the man was taken to the Orleans Parish Prison after he failed to appear in court on a drug charge. Two days after he was taken into custody, he was involved in a fight, which led to his placement on a disciplinary floor. The man's behavior became erratic, so he was again transferred to a psychiatric unit. In that wing, he was secured with a five-point restraint system that included leather straps around his chest. He stopped breathing as he was being restrained; jail staff could not resuscitate him.

Although prison inmates may have committed a crime - or simply have been accused of a violation - they still have rights. Families should not have to suffer the loss of companionship that comes along with such a tragic jail incident. Those victims should be compensated by the government agencies responsible for causing the loss of a loved one in a penitentiary or other facility.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Orleans Parish Prison deputies give conflicting testimony in trial over death of inmate Kerry Washington" Richard A. Webster, Apr. 29, 2014

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