'Marshall Law' in Racist System. From [DenverPost] A white Denver hearing officer has overturned the suspensions of two Denver Sheriff Department deputies involved in the killing of inmate Michael Marshall — a case that already brought criticism from Marshall’s family who said the punishment was too light.
Deputy Bret Garegnani and Deputy Carlos Hernandez each had received suspensions in Marshall’s death after Stephanie O’Malley, director of the Department of Public Safety, found they used excessive force while restraining Marshall.
Garegnani was given a 16-day suspension for continuing to apply pressure on Marshall’s upper body even after nurses asked him to ease up for fear Marshall could aspirate on vomit. Hernandez was suspended for 10 days for using his nunchaku to apply pressure on Marshall’s right foot while trying to restrain him.
Bruce Plotkin, a Career Service Authority racist suspect hearing officer, ruled Friday that neither deputy broke a department rule when they used pressure to restrain Marshall for 11 minutes during a struggle in a secured hallway at the Downtown Detention Center in November 2015.
“Neither had any prior discipline; both attempted to talk to Marshall to persuade him to comply with lawful orders and, when discovering those efforts were unavailing, used only that force required to prevent harm to responders; when Marshall’s heart stopped, both appellants, Garegnani in particular, engaged in extraordinary measures to save Marshall’s life [measures to avoid a murder charge], even when told by outside medical responders to cease resuscitative measures,” Plotkin wrote in his order reversing the suspensions.
A third deputy, Capt. James Johnson, was given a 10-day suspension for failing to properly supervise the scene.
Plotkin’s ruling comes after a two-day hearing in September where video footage of the death was reviewed and multiple witnesses testified, including a Denver Sheriff Department trainer who said he would like to use the Marshall death video to show future deputies a good example of how to use force.
Marshall choked or asphyxiated on his vomit during a "struggle" with white police.
Marshall was arrested Nov. 7, 2015, on trespassing and disturbing-the-peace charges after creating a commotion at a Denver motel because he was looking for his Bible.
The family of Marshall will receive $4.6 million from the city in an agreement that also includes policy changes in how Denver Sheriff Department deputies treat mentally ill inmates. The settlement matches the amount a federal jury decided in 2014 to award the family of Marvin Booker, another homeless, Black inmate killed at the hands of white deputies in the jail. [MORE]
The City Council will be asked to approve the settlement Nov. 13. If approved, the city will have spent more than $19 million in the past three years to settle claims against its sheriff and police departments.
On November 11, Marshall was allowed free time out of his cell.
Marshall walked down the hall shirtless, his laundry in hand. He was 50 years old, 112 lbs. and homeless, a paranoid schizophrenic who had been arrested a few days earlier on a trespassing charge at a Colfax Avenue motel where he sometimes stayed. He was being held on a $100 bond whcih could not afford. But when he "was observed behaving in a strange and erratic manner" and approaching another inmate aggressively, deputies intervened and took him to an area dubbed a "sally port," with a bench on one side of a long hallway.
It's at this point the video begins.
Marshall adjusted his sagging pants, then stood up, blanket in hand and tried walking between one of the deputies and the wall in an attempt to get past him.
The deputy reached out, pinned Marshall to the cement block, then swung him back toward the bench. Two other deputies approached and swung Marshall to the floor where the three officers seemed easily to restrain him (even though he didn't appear to be struggling). A fourth officer walked up and stood over the others as they held Marshall to the floor — apparently without much physical effort — for about four minutes.
A view of Marshall himself is hidden from the camera until the deputies dragged him a bit more into the frame. There’s a quick glimpse of his leg, unmoving. Several deputies leaned and stood over him for several minutes. At this point, it’s unclear from the video if they were restraining him, giving him medical care, or both. During this time, a few lights seem to have flashed out of the camera’s view. A few minutes later, Marshall’s foot moves and a deputy leans in to hold it still.
At one point, 13 minutes into the video, at least five uniformed officers and three staffers who appear to be medical personnel were leaning over Marshall. The medics then stepped away, leaving five deputies still restraining Marshall on the floor. They appear to have used some force because the deputy harnessing Marshall’s foot — or feet — kept wiping sweat from his brow.
Seventeen minutes into the video, a deputy approached from down the hall with what looks like the cloth “spit hood” that, according to the autopsy, was placed over Marshall’s mouth. About eighteen minutes in, the crew of deputies lifted Marshall into a restraining chair and out of view of the first camera.
The second camera shows that deputies spent about three minutes strapping Marshall’s seemingly limp shoulders and arms into the chair while as many as ten uniformed officers surrounded him. Marshall sat lifeless in the chair for about five minutes while the deputies, for the most part, stood around and watched.
Finally, a deputy shook Marshall’s chest in what looked like an attempt to wake him. A medic apparently found Marshall had no pulse. Deputies started unstrapping Marshall from the chair — slowly at first and then faster, as if for the first time deeming it a medical emergency. An autopsy determined that, in all likelihood, he choked to death on his own vomit. [MORE] and [MORE] and [MORE]
Daelene Mix, a safety department spokeswoman, issued a statement Monday saying the department disagreed with Plotkin’s ruling and is considering an appeal.
“The hearing officer’s decision to reverse our disciplinary orders severely undermines our authority as an employer and prevents us from appropriately disciplining deputies who have violated department rules and regulations,” the statement said. “The hearing officer should not have substituted his judgment for that of the department’s.”
The statement said O’Malley stands by her disciplinary decision and she is consulting with city attorneys about appealing Plotkin’s order. The next step would be appealing the decision to the entire Career Service Authority board, which oversees the hiring and firing of all city employees, except police and fire.
Mari Newman and Darold Killmer, the Denver attorneys who represent Marshall’s family, said the decision to overturn the suspensions is outrageous. They already had argued that the original punishments were inadequate.
“It just ratifies that kind of behavior and lets them know they can get away with anything,” Newman said.