Widow of Veteran Slain in Jail May Have a Case

     (CN) – Dallas County must face excessive-force claims from a widow whose husband, a decorated Iraq war veteran, died in jail, the 5th Circuit ruled.
     Denise Kitchen sued the county and several jailers in federal court nine months after the January 2010 death of Gregory Kitchen, 32, in the Dallas County Jail.
     Mesquite police had arrested Gregory on a felony burglary of habitation charge at the time, and allegedly placed him in psychiatric evaluation after being observed going through the belongings of other detainees, mumbling, walking backward and avoiding eye contact with others.
     During interviews with medical staff, Gregory urinated himself, cried, and talked about hearing his mother’s voice and having suicidal thoughts, his widow said.
     The complaint cites testimony by four other inmates who said Gregory Kitchen was already restrained when he was “kicked, choked and stomped.”
     He was also pepper-sprayed “multiple times after he had stopped resisting,” the inmates said.
     In granting the county summary judgment last year, U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis found little evidence of excessive force or deliberate indifference by jailers as to Gregory’s medical needs.
     A three-judge panel with the 5th Circuit revived the excessive-force claim Thursday, saying that the county and jailers “had reasonable warning that kicking, stomping, and choking a subdued inmate” would violate the inmate’s constitutional rights under certain circumstances.
     “On remand, if the district court ultimately finds summary judgment evidence showing that certain individual defendants-appellees committed such actions, then those individual defendants-appellees cannot invoke qualified immunity during these summary judgment proceedings,” the ruling from the New Orleans-based court says.
     The defendants also failed to challenge the claims of bystander liability.
     Though they had claimed that Denise failed to identity specific individuals responsible for the use of excessive force, Judge W. Eugene Davis said for the court that their argument is not supported “by any legal authority and is contrary to the reasoning applied by at least three circuits.
     Dismissal of the deliberate-indifference claims was proper, however, the court found.
     “Here, plaintiff-appellant does not present any significant evidence that the detention officers were deliberately indifferent to a substantial health risk,” Davis wrote. “The need for the participation of specialized staff to perform the extraction of a mentally ill inmate from a jail cell is not ‘so apparent that even laymen would recognize’ this alleged medical need.”
     The panel also affirmed the dismissal of her a municipal-liability claim that alleged jailers were not adequately trained
     Denise Kitchen “has neither demonstrated a pattern of constitutional violations similar to those at issue in this case, nor demonstrated that this single incident of injury was highly predictable and patently obvious,” Davis wrote.
     Dallas County officials did not respond to requests for comment Monday morning.

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