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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
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Arpaio Still Faces Trial Over Sick Inmate’s Death

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - There were not enough votes among 9th Circuit judges Friday to stop a retrial against Maricopa County and Sheriff Joe Arpaio over their treatment of a schizophrenic inmate.

Eric Vogel had a lifelong history of mental illness and social isolation before Maricopa County authorities apprehended him in 2001 while looking for a burglar in his Phoenix neighborhood.

The 36-year-old Vogel had left the home he shared with his mother that morning for the first time in years.

When the officers questioned him, he struggled, shouted "kill me" and said he needed to talk to the president.

The deputies arrested him and booked him in Arpaio's jail for assaulting a police officer.

Jail officials decided to transfer Vogel to the psychiatric unit after he told a psychologist that he was at the World Trade Center and getting messages from satellites. Before he got there, however, they subjected the detainee to a "dress-out" in which four officers forced Vogel to change into pink underwear and other jailhouse garb.

Arpaio famously requires of all Maricopa County Jail inmates to wear pink underwear.

Vogel spent a week in the unit before his mother bailed him out. A short time later, he was in his mother's car when she had a traffic accident. Police at the scene warned Vogel that there was a warrant out for his arrest for spitting on an officer during the "dress-out."

Vogel left the scene and ran for approximately 5 miles. He died the next day of acute cardiac arrhythmia.

Relatives say Vogel thought was being raped by the officers during the "dress-out," and that the pink underwear was some sort of preparation for a "gang rape."

Vogel had allegedly been obsessed with the humiliating jailhouse incident, and that the lingering trauma of the dress-out caused him to have a heart attack, according to the complaint.

At trial, however, Senior U.S. District Judge Earl Carroll barred Vogel's sister, Yavon Wagner, from testifying about her brother's state of mind, finding it hearsay.

He also prohibited mention of "rape," "gang rape," and "pink underwear," finding no evidence that Vogel had known the underwear he was forced to wear was indeed pink.

The court also limited expert testimony as to the possible effects of the dress-out and about an alleged connection between schizophrenia and cardiac arrhythmia.

At the trial's end, Carroll also abruptly barred the plaintiff from making a rebuttal argument. A jury found for the defendants.

The 9th Circuit ordered a retrial in March after finding that Carroll's decisions prejudiced the case's outcome.

With minimal changes, the 9th Circuit vacated and replaced that order Friday.

The filing notes only that Judge N.R. Smith, a member of the original panel, voted to grant the petition for rehearing and petition for rehearing en banc.

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