A new lawsuit says that Anthony Mitchell didn’t get any water in his jail cell for more than 70 hours in late January.
Mitchell, a 33-year-old man being held before his trial in Alabama’s Walker County Jail, had asked for water and held a cup up to his window, according to the lawsuit. But the corrections officers who went to Mitchell’s cell starting on January 23 are said to have not given him water until he was too weak to drink.
The lawsuit says that he was left in his cell without water and in “cold temperatures.”
Mitchell became hypothermic overnight, and when police took him to the hospital on January 26, his body temperature was 72 degrees, according to the complaint filed by his mother. The complaint says Mitchell died that day after being locked up for two weeks “under horrible conditions” at the jail.
Mitchell’s mother, Margaret Mitchell, filed the wrongful death lawsuit last month against the Walker County sheriff, the officers and medical staff in the sheriff’s department, and anyone else who was “deliberately indifferent” to Mitchell while he was in jail.
Margaret Mitchell’s lawyer, Jon Goldfarb, filed an updated complaint with the court this week. In it, he gave more information about Anthony Mitchell’s time in jail and death, and he added Quality Correctional Health Care as a defendant. He said that Margaret Mitchell wants “everyone to know what happened to her son.”
Goldfarb told The Washington Post, “What we’re trying to do is get these institutions to treat these people like people instead of animals.”
The lawsuit says that the corrections officers work for the Walker County Sheriff’s Office, but officials there wouldn’t say anything because of the lawsuit.
Quality Correctional Health Care is hired to provide medical services at the jail. An attorney for the company and the two staff members, LaBella McCallum, said that the two employees were not deliberately uncaring.
She also said that the jail staff named in the complaint did everything by the book while Mitchell was there.
Mitchell was a loved son and brother who lived in Carbon Hill, Alabama. The lawsuit says that he had been living with his father until last year. The lawsuit says that after Mitchell’s father died in August, he “spiralled into worsening drug addiction” and had health problems with his body and mind.
Mitchell went to his cousin’s house on January 12. According to the lawsuit, he had lost a lot of weight and was “spouting delusions.”
His cousin dialed the police. The Walker County Sheriff’s Office is quoted in the lawsuit as saying that Mitchell pulled out a gun and fired at least one shot when police arrived. Soon after, he was taken into custody and charged with trying to kill someone.
Mitchell stayed in a cell by himself while he waited for his trial.
From January 12, he was usually given three meals a day, but the complaint says that the food bag did not come with drinks or eating tools. The lawsuit says that his cell didn’t have a bed or sink, only a drain for poop. In two weeks at the facility, Mitchell was only taken to use the shower or bathroom six times, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says, “The cell is just bare cement, which is the same as a dog kennel.”
The complaint says that on January 15, an officer used a Taser on Mitchell in his cell. Mitchell’s false teeth, which he needed to eat solid food, fell out as he hit the floor of the cell. The lawsuit says that the teeth were taken from him and put in a property bag. He was not given back the bag.
The document also says that Mitchell did not get help from a doctor or nurse after the Taser shocked him.
Mitchell was seen by a doctor when he was booked into the jail on January 12, but the lawsuit says that “no medical staff physically examined him, took vital signs, or gave Tony medication until the early morning hours” of January 26, the day he died.
The complaint says that Mitchell was given a gown to wear on January 21, the last day he was out of his cell. On January 23, a corrections officer brought Mitchell his last cup of water before he died.
Over the next few days, he was “obviously weak and obviously in need of hydration,” but officers didn’t give him any water, even though they talked to him. It also says that on January 25, Mitchell, who was “already stressed because he hadn’t had water in over two days,” got hypothermia because his cell was so cold and he was only wearing a gown.
On January 26, early in the morning, police went to Mitchell’s cell. One of them took a cup of water, which was the first time Mitchell had been given water in more than 70 hours, but the lawsuit says Mitchell was too weak from being dehydrated and cold to sit up and drink the water.
His vital signs were taken at 4 a.m., and one of the medical staff wrote in a note that “inmate needs to be sent out to ER due to dehydration,” according to the complaint.
After a few hours, Mitchell was taken to the hospital in the back of an SUV from the sheriff’s department. The lawsuit says that the people on call that day “failed to call an ambulance,” even though Mitchell “had a serious need for immediate emergency medical care.”
Quality Correctional Health Care says that its workers did call for an ambulance to take Mitchell to the hospital. Thursday, Quality Correctional Health Care said that the county is in charge of the transfers.
“Ambulance transfers must be handled by the County because it decides when an inmate is ready to be moved and when a jail officer is available to go with the inmate for safety reasons,” the statement said, adding that “the nurses can only recommend a transfer, which they did.”
The doctor who treated Mitchell at the hospital wrote in a note that his temperature of 72 degrees was “hard to understand.” He also said, “I do believe that hypothermia was the ultimate cause of his death,” according to the lawsuit.
The complaint says that medical staff at Walker Baptist in Jasper, Alabama, tried for more than three hours to save Mitchell’s life until his mother came and asked them to stop. That afternoon, it was said that he was dead.
Goldfarb said, “No one has a right to be treated that way.”
The lawsuit asks for a jury trial.