The mother of a man who killed himself in a southwest Missouri jail cell will receive a $550,000 settlement from the authorities who incarcerated him.
“He had a history of suicide and depression and was actually taking medications for it,” said Jose Bautista of Bautista LeRoy.
Bautista was one of two attorneys representing Patricia Roderique whose son, Charles, attempted suicide while detained in the Carthage city jail on a DUI charge. The 24-year-old, who hanged himself from a bunk using bed sheets, initially survived and was stabilized by emergency personnel but later died of his injuries, Bautista said.
The attorney contended the city was at fault in a number of respects, including not recognizing the young man as a suicide risk.
“They didn’t do any screenings,” said Bautista. “They didn’t do anything on his history to figure out whether or not he was suicidal or at risk for suicide or other mental issues where he might harm himself or someone else.”
There was no indication that Roderique made suicidal threats although he was overheard to remark on a phone call during the booking process that he had spent time at a psychiatric facility where he had experienced brief in-house treatment, Bautista said.
Roderique’s death was also video-recorded due to a camera system set up to monitor the cells but Bautista said no one responded for 20 minutes as the prisoner tied his bed sheet and hanged himself. The video had a live feed to a jail official who Bautista said was supposed to watch the detention areas at all times.
“That person had gone on break and it was unclear who, if anyone, was watching at the time,” he said.
Once a jailer discovered the hanging man, the guard simply left to alert others rather than cut him down from the noose, an action that further delayed aid, Bautista said.
He argues that the young man should never have had access to bed sheets in the first place.
“They should have had screening procedures to figure out who was a suicide risk,” he said. “They should have had procedures once you find out somebody is a suicide risk to remove and protect that person from suicide.”
The jail had a questionnaire for detainees that asked if they had any illnesses but no specific queries about mental problems or suicidal thoughts, Bautista said.
Bautista said the settlement was a good one given that these types of constitutional rights violation claims contain a lot of immunities and exceptions for governmental organizations.
“It is a very difficult area of law,” he said. “It has a ton of pitfalls.”
Linda Powers of Groves Powers was co-counsel for the plaintiff. She deferred comment to Bautista.
Karl Blanchard, Jr., of Blanchard, Robertson, Mitchell & Carter was listed as representing Carthage. He did not return a message seeking comment.
Venue: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri
Case Number/Date: 3:15-cv-05072-MDH/Dec. 18, 2016
Plaintiff’s Experts: Kenneth Stein, St. Louis, (emergency medicine); Jeff Eiser, Hermosa Beach, California, (jail operations and practices)
Caption: Patricia Roderique v. Carthage, Missouri Police Department; City of Carthage, Missouri; Stacy Mitchell; Ben Vogt; Roy Eppard; Jordan Macy; Jeffrey Pinnell; Greg Dagnan
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Linda Powers of Groves Powers, St. Louis; Jose Bautista of Bautista LeRoy, Kansas City
Defendant’s Attorney: Karl Blanchard, Jr. of Blanchard, Robertson, Mitchell & Carter, Carthage