(CN) – Employees of an Arizona county jail are not responsible for a depressed juvenile inmate’s suicide, the 9th Circuit ruled, because the employees did all that the constitution requires for supervising inmates on suicide watch.
Jasper Simmons, 17, was arrested and charged as an adult after he allegedly molested a 10-year-old girl on an elementary school playground. He was sent to the Navajo County Jail in Holbrook, Ariz., and was segregated from the adult inmates.
A week after being detained, Simmons attempted suicide by cutting his wrist with a razor Simmons hung himself in his cell while on suicide watch over the Fourth of July weekend.
Simmons’s family filed a complaint in Superior Court against the jail employees for violating Jasper’s Fourteenth Amendment right by not addressing his medical needs.
The court ruled that the employees had not deliberately ignored Simmons’s needs and were therefore entitled to judgment in their favor.
A three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit agreed on appeal, finding that the nurse and the prison guards who were monitoring Simmons knew of the suicide risk, but there is no evidence that they deliberately ignored Simmons’s medical needs.
“We cannot agree, however, that the evidence supports the inference that [the nurse] knew that Jasper was at acute risk of harm at the time he killed himself,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the San Francisco-based panel.