Marion County Jail facing another inmate death lawsuit

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MARION COUNTY, Ind. -- Less than two months after an independent report on jail suicides and several months after litigation filed on behalf of the families of two inmates who killed themselves, the Marion County Sheriff Department is once again the focus of a federal lawsuit over the death of inmate in the care of its deputies.

Marshal Carman, 29, was locked up in September of 2014 for attempting and failing to steal a computer from a Walmart as a birthday gift for his young son.

Carman died five days later of a heart attack inside his single cell at the Marion County Jail after a surveillance video shows deputies walking past his lifeless body several times on the day he died.

“On the morning of the 24th, at four in the morning, he was lying face down in his cell, on the concrete floor without any clothes on,” said attorney Eric Pavlack, “and guards walked past him, not once, not twice, not three or four times, it was the fourth time when they finally went by that they went to check on him and at that point he was clearly comatose and rather than getting medical care for him, two guards picked up his lifeless body and plopped it down on a cot face down and left him there for two more hours before he finally got medical care.”

The lawsuit Pavlack filed on behalf of Carman’s mother indicates deputies observed the offender at 4:18 a.m., 4:44 a.m. and 5:03 a.m. before the jail officers placed him on his cot at 5:23 a.m.

On the surveillance video, Carman is observed moving slightly on the cot before deputies bring him food at 6:37 a.m. and then check on him 25 minutes later leading to an examination and pronouncement of death at 7:25 a.m.

“I supposed three hours of lying face down and no movement finally prompted them to do something about it,” said Pavlack.

Sue Lich spoke to her son often during phone calls from the jail as he awaited an initial hearing on the theft charge.

“He called to say that he’d done something stupid and that he was in the jail again and they were refusing to give him his medication,” she said. “He said he was sick, he didn’t feel good and that he needed his medication but they wouldn’t give it to him.”

That medication was Klonopin, an anti-anxiety treatment for depression and the panic attacks of which Carman suffered.

“I think that their refusal of him having his medication….and with him not getting his medication that it put him into convulsions and then to the heart attack,” said Lich. “When you’re on a medical ward they’re supposed to watch you close and they weren’t watching him close.”

Lich’s lawsuit claims two days before his death, Carman complained to a sheriff’s deputy of chest pains, which the jail officer recorded, but when the offender was examined by a nurse employed by the jail’s private health care provider, those symptoms were not noted on his record.

“There is nothing subtle about it,” said Pavlack. “They were looking at this man while he died and they did nothing for him and its horrific.”

Pavlack also represents the estates of two inmates who committed suicide in the jail.

“We all know there are serious problems at the Marion County Jail and they all carry similar characteristics but this one might be the most egregious I’ve seen where multiple guards walked by a young man’s cell while he was dying and did nothing about it for hours,” said Pavlack. “We’re finding direct evidence that they were understaffed or they were failing to monitor people who had known symptoms and red flags for suicidal behavior and they simply did not have the capabilities due to short staff and overcrowding to properly monitor those people to make sure things like this didn’t happen.”

In mid-June a task force issued a report that found a myriad of deficiencies in the jail’s suicide prevention protocols and suggested several structural, policy and training changes, virtually none of which were implemented in time to prevent another inmate suicide July 2nd.

“It seems like every month there’s another one so there is no indication that things are getting better,” said Pavlack.

The task force’s report was issued days before inspectors from the American Correctional Association toured the jail and later gave the facility a 98% audit score, its highest rating ever.

Jail officials told CBS4 that they were unsure if ACA was aware of the report taking the facility to task for the gaps in its suicide prevention protocols.

Monday afternoon BKD National Governmental Group will issue its final report to the Criminal Justice Planning Council on data it compiled regarding operations of the Marion County Jail and the challenges in constructing a new facility.

That report is expected to list 28 options for revamping the criminal justice process from arrest to conviction to incarceration.

Mayor Joe Hogsett has promised a recommendation on building a new jail and re-examining the entire system by the end of the year.

“It’s bad enough and its tragic enough that they’re neglecting inmates at the jail,” said Pavlack as he reflected on a banner hung high on the jail’s exterior walls proclaiming its top rankings by three accreditation bodies, “but it’s even worse when they pat themselves on the back and say, ‘Look what a great job they’re doing,’ and so it’s a slap in the face to my clients and their families.”

“I want everybody to know what happens inside the Marion County Jail,” said Lich.

A spokeswoman for Sheriff John Layton told CBS4 that the Sheriff’s Office does not comment on pending litigation.

While the lawsuit lists a defendant as, “Anonymous Healthcare Provider,” a media relations specialist engaged by Correct Care Solutions of Nashville, Tennessee, the jail’s medical care contractor, sent an unsolicited statement to CBS4 that read, “Due to the fact that the story that you are developing is in active litigation, we are going to respectfully decline comment at this time out of respect for the privacy of the patient and the need for internal review. Thank you for reaching out. We are giving the matter our full attention.”

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