(CN) - A Mississippi sheriff was properly granted qualified immunity after an inmate hanged himself in the drunk tank, the 5th Circuit ruled.
Theodore Smith was facing his third DUI charge and a felony sentence when he was put in the drunk tank. His blood alcohol level was .321, more than three times the legal limit.
Jailers took Smith's belt, watch, jacket and hat, but allowed him to keep his shoes. Smith hanged himself with his shoelaces. His estate, led by heir Renisa Brumfield, sued for wrongful death.
The trial court ruled that Marion County Sheriff Richard "Rip" Stringer was protected by qualified immunity. Judge Haynes affirmed.
The sheriff is not required to have written policies for his jailers, Haynes ruled. He noted that several of the sheriff's employees testified that oral policies were in place.
Haynes also rejected Brumfield's argument that the jailers were not trained.
Two testified that they had "on-the-job training," while others said they were trained at the county's new jail before being sent to work at the old jail.
"While there may be disparities in the deputies' testimony regarding the extent of their training, there is no question that they did receive training," Haynes ruled. "Brumfield's dissatisfaction with Sheriff Stringer's training efforts cannot negate the fact that the training occurred."
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