MILWAUKEE (CN) – A Milwaukee County jury recommended Monday that seven jail staffers be charged for the dehydration death of an inmate who was deprived of water for seven days.
Terrill Thomas, 38, was found dead last year in his cell naked with “dried up blood around his groin and trailing down his right leg,” according to a federal lawsuit filed by his family in March.
The water in Thomas’ cell was allegedly shut off and he died just 10 days after his arrest.
He was kept in a single-cell solitary confinement unit of the jail because of the offenses charged and his alleged conduct.
“Prisoners confined near Terrill Thomas’s cell overheard his cries for water for days, yet correctional, medical and psychological personnel ignored those cries and never gave Terrill Thomas water, presumably as some misguided form of punishment or retribution for the alleged crimes that brought him to the justice facility,” the family’s lawsuit states.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide by dehydration.
As part of an inquest into the incident, prosecutors provided jurors with jails logs documenting two other cases within a month of Thomas’ death in which inmates were deprived of water to their cells for misbehavior.
On Monday, a six-person jury recommended charges against two jail supervisors, Nancy Evans and Kashka Meadors, and five officers: JorDon Johnson, Thomas Laine, James Ramsey-Guy, Dominique Smith and John Weber.
Prosecutors must now decide whether to file the recommended charges. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm has said he has no specific timeline to decide, and could charge more or fewer people than the jury suggested.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has been under fire for his management of the county jail, as four inmates have died there since last year. Clarke was sued in December after a newborn baby was found dead. The baby’s mother claims jail staffers ignored her cries for help during and after labor.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has rejected calls by an immigrant rights group to remove Clarke from office.
The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s department did not reply to an email request for comment on the jury’s recommendation of criminal charges.
Thomas was arrested for allegedly shooting a man outside of his parent’s house before firing a gun inside Potawatomi Casino. His family said he was having a mental breakdown at the time.
He reportedly stuffed a mattress in a toilet in his first jail cell to flood it. Meadors is accused of ordering Ramsey-Guy to shut off water in his new cell.