[Discount “Justice”] From [HERE] and [MORE] The family Terrill Thomas, a Black Man who died inside a Milwaukee County Jail has settled a lawsuit against the county and a private health company for $6.75 million.
The award is one of the largest settlements in connection to a jail death in the U.S., according to HuffPost.
A 25-page complaint filed in Milwaukee federal court alleges that staff at the Milwaukee County jail repeatedly ignored 38-year-old Terrill Thomas’ requests for water for days.
Thomas’ children – Terrill Barnes, Curtis Piggee and Amari Thomas-Acosta, a minor, along with his mother Michelle Thomas-Acosta – sued Sheriff Clarke, Milwaukee County, the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division and Armor Correctional Health Services Inc. Richard E. Schmidt, inspector for the sheriff’s office, and two corrections officers are also named as defendants in the wrongful-death lawsuit.
Although much has been made of the fact that the suit involved former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a step and fetch-it servant of the white supremacy system and one of Donald Trump’s loyal proxymoronic supporters, he was nevertheless a Straw-Boss. According to the complaint, Inspector Richard Schmidt, racist suspect in photo, “was ultimately responsible for the health, safety, security, welfare and humane treatment of all inmates at the Justice Facility. “ At all times Schmidt had oversight of the medical, clerical, correctional officers, and staff assigned to the Justice Facility. At all times he also oversaw, supervised, and had control over the management and operation of the entire Sheriff’s Department, and was responsible for the MSCO’s policies, procedures, and training.”
On April 14, 2016, Thomas was arrested by Milwaukee police after officers responded to reports of shots being fired at the Potawatomi Casino, according to the complaint. Thomas was charged and transferred to the Milwaukee County jail the next day.
On April 27, he was supposed to undergo medical evaluation to determine if he was competent to stand trial for five counts of charges against him. But this didn’t happen because on April 24 he was found dead in his solitary cell.
Thomas’s body showed no injuries, but his “biochemistry testing revealed profound dehydration,” the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said. The death was ruled a homicide.
While he was held by Milwaukee Police, Thomas demonstrated signs of acute psychological disorders, disrupting the City Jail and causing officers to expend more time in securing him and keeping him safe until transfer was effectuated to the Milwaukee County Sheriff.
Prior to transfer to the jails care and custody, the Milwaukee Police had Thomas examined at Columbia-St. Mary’s Hospital, where he was medically cleared for transfer to the Milwaukee County Sheriff. At the time of the transfer, Milwaukee Police advised Correctional Staff of the conduct, actions and necessary measures the Milwaukee Police employed to maintain Thomas and keep him safe during his brief time in custody of the Milwaukee Police and prior to transfer.
That because of his conduct and offenses charged, Correctional staff identified Thomas for immediate placement in the Special Housing Unit (4- D) of the Facility, which is a segregation unit, with solitary confinement in one-man cells and locked in twenty-four hours per day.
The complaint states “At some point in time the water system to Thomas’ cell was terminated, which denied him any running water, water for flushing the toilet, or to even permit him to wash his face, while confined in that cell.
Citing prosecutors, The New York Times reports that Thomas was moved into isolation after stuffing a mattress cover in the toilet and flooding his first cell. As punishment for his bad behavior, prosecutors said former jail lieutenant Kashka Meadors instructed former correctional officer James Ramsey-Guy to shut off the water supply to Thomas’ new cell.
It was never turned back on.
That from April 15th to April 23rd, 2016, Thomas made several and repetitive requests for water to jail guards, all of which were ignored and resulted in him being denied water. The complaint said video surveillance in the Segregation Unit substantiates his repeated complaints of not having water to guards.
Inmates told Thomas’s family that before dying he had begged for drinking water, the family told WISN, a local ABC-affiliated television station.
His water tap was reportedly shut off because he had previously flooded his cell, Marcus Berry, an inmate, told the Journal Sentinel newspaper. Berry epeatedly urged corrections officers to give Thomas water the day before he died, they claim.
“I could tell he was getting weaker,” Berry said. “One day he just lay down, dehydrated and hungry.”
“Mr. Berry was in a cell across from Terrill Thomas the last six days of Terrill Thomas’s life. Mr. Berry’s urging and pleas were repeatedly ignored by the defendants,” the complaint states.
By April 24, 10 days after his arrest, Thomas was reported unresponsive in his cell during a routine check by a guard.
When medical staff arrived, Thomas was lying naked on the floor of his cell, which was noted as “normal behavior” by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, according to the lawsuit.
Jail staff reportedly noted upon finding Thomas that he had “dried blood around his groin and trailing down his right leg, which was clearly visible upon inspection of his naked body.”
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner ruled his death by dehydration a homicide, according to the complaint. His family says Thomas was “subjected to a form of torture by being intentionally and/or recklessly denied hydration.”
“Prisoners confined near Terrill Thomas’s cell overheard his cries for water for days, yet correctional, medical and psychological personnel ignored those cries and never gave Terrill Thomas water, presumably as some misguided form of punishment or retribution for the alleged crimes that brought him to the justice facility,” the lawsuit states.
“The amount of pain and suffering Terrill Thomas went through is really hard to comprehend, and a ton of this is captured on video,” James End, a layer with First, Albrecht & Blondis who worked on the case, told HuffPost in an interview. “The amount of suffering that Mr. Thomas went through was just tremendous, and that I think would be recognized by any person who took any time to listen to the facts of this case.”
Thomas’ children say Clarke, Schmidt, the jail staff and Armor Correction Health Service all directly participated in depriving Thomas of water.
“What happened to Terrill Thomas was a form of torture,” Erik Heipt, an attorney for the Thomas estate said. “He was a mentally ill man who needed help. Instead, he was deprived of life-sustaining nourishment — water.
“This is the sort of atrocity that should never happen in an American jail,” he added. “Ever. There’s no excuse for it.”
Thomas’ death was just one in a string of fatalities (including a newborn baby) inside the Milwaukee County Jail over a span of just seven months. After Thomas’ death, a 38-year-old female inmate and a 29-year-old male inmate died in August and October, respectively.
Three jail staffers were charged in connection to Thomas’ 2016 death after jury recommended prosecutors charge them with felony abuse. Meadors and Ramsey-Guy were both charged with neglect of a resident of a penal facility. Meadors would go on to plead no contest to a felony charge of prisoner abuse and was sentenced to 60 days behind bars, while Ramsey-Guy got a 30-day sentence for a felony charge of abusing a resident of a penal facility.
Jail Cmdr. Nancy Lee Evans was also charged with felony misconduct and misdemeanor obstructing an office after prosecutors said she didn’t keep security footage of the guards shutting off the water supply and lied about what was in the footage. She pleaded guilty to felony misconduct in office earlier this year and was sentenced to nine months of what was expected to be house arrest.
Heipt was satisfied with the settlement and said he hopes something good will come from it.
In a statement, attorneys for the Thomas estate said that, “While no amount of money will give Mr. Thomas his life back — or allow his children to spend another day with their father — it is our hope that this case sends a message to every single jail and prison in America that this type of blatant disregard for human life will not be tolerated.”