Original Source: Post & Courier
A lawsuit was filed Aug. 15 against Laurens County Sheriff Don Reynolds in connection with the death of Jarvis Evans, who was found unresponsive in a holding cell after being restrained and Tasered.
Mark Peper, of Charleston-based The Peper Law Firm, filed the lawsuit with the 8th Judicial Circuit on behalf of Evans’ mother, Catherine Cullen Evans. Rosalyn Henderson-Myers is also representing the Evans family in the case.
Peper said a second lawsuit would be filed against the deputies involved.
“We are going to hold them accountable,” Peper said during a news conference Aug. 16. “We are going to hold them accountable for tasing a restrained Black man, for taking him to jail when he should have gone to a hospital.”
Laurens County sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Courtney Snow told The Post and Courier on Aug. 17 that the Sheriff’s Office had no comment on the lawsuit.
The July 30, 2021, death of Evans bears close similarities to an incident in Charleston County.
In May 2021, Jamal Sutherland, a 31-year-old Black man with mental illness, died in the county jail after he was pepper-sprayed, shocked with Tasers, and restrained. The county reached a $10 million settlement with Sutherland’s family, who were also represented by Peper.
The lawsuit in Laurens County is based around a 911 call made by Evans and deputy bodycam footage inside the jail. A link to a compiled video was provided by The Peper Law Firm.
Evans, 40, called 911 on July 29, 2021, and said he was “afraid for his life because there were people with guns in his house.” Evans’ mother arrived at the scene and told the operator her son was mentally ill and possibly on drugs, according to the lawsuit.
Evans was not taken to the hospital by deputies. He was charged with breach of peace and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors, and taken to the R. Eugene Johnson Detention Center at 10:56 p.m.
The video, which is time-stamped, shows deputies held a struggling Evans by the neck, pinned him on the ground to switch restraints and put a spit mask on him.
“JDC deputies refused to contact and request appropriate medical intervention from Southern Health,” the lawsuit claims. “JDC deputies lifted (Evans), who was already restrained behind the back by handcuffs, leg restraints and a spit mask, off the ground and into an emergency restraint chair to punish him.”
A Taser was used at least three times on Evans while several deputies tried to restrain him in the chair, which can be seen and heard in the video. Evans was then wheeled into a holding cell.
A deputy later noticed Evans was unresponsive in the holding cell, according to the lawsuit. Laurens County Emergency Medical Services responded and transported Evans to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2:59 a.m.
According to the lawsuit, Evans was taken directly to the hospital on two previous instances when deputies responded to his home — in December 2018 and January 2021.
Catherine Evans said on Aug. 16 her son should have received medical care and believed the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office should be held responsible for her son’s death.
Original Source: Live 5 News
Charleston County Council’s unanimous vote Wednesday night on a $10 million settlement in the death of Jamal Sutherland means the county will have to dip into its coffers to pay the majority of the cost.
Sutherland is the man who died while in custody on Jan. 5 at the Charleston County jail.
His death came approximately 10 hours after North Charleston Police took him to the jail from Palmetto Behavioral Health where he was being treated for a mental health condition. Police responded to the facility after receiving a 911 call about a fight that had broken out.
Sutherland wound up being charged with third-degree assault and battery but became unresponsive as detention deputies worked to forcibly remove him from his cell so that he could attend a bond hearing. Deputies used tasers and dragged him out of the cell.
No one has been criminally charged, despite demands from Sutherland’s family and activist groups.
Injury attorney Mark Bringardner says the $10 million settlement is the largest civil rights settlement in the state of South Carolina.
“And it’s a sizable settlement, but I will say that it’s not out of line with other cases like that,” he says.
Mark Peper, the attorney representing the Sutherland family, said his staff also determined this is the largest civil rights settlement after looking through similar payments dating back to 2015. At that time, the $6.5 million Walter Scott settlement was the largest such payout.
Of the $10 million, Charleston County will pay $8 million. The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and the North Charleston Police Department will each pay $1 million.
But Bringardner says it’s not “case closed.”
Peper confirmed they are still looking to settle with Palmetto Behavioral Health, the North Charleston facility where Sutherland was arrested for assaulting a staff member. The family is also looking to settle with Wellpath, the contract company that provides medical workers at the Charleston County jail.
“So this is a good first step in providing closure to the family, providing some sense of justice to them,” Bringardner says. “But money can only do so much. It’s the best we have under our civil justice system to exchange money for injury or loss of life. But really what we try to do as lawyers is to pursue policy changes so there’s a systemic reaction to help make people in Mr. Sutherland’s situation safer.”
U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace says she hopes new laws and federal grants can help prevent this from ever happening again.
“Different ways we can treat folks when police or 911 is called and one example is to have a mental health professional on call when police are called,” she said.
Mace says we desperately need more data about mental health issues in prisons and jails to prevent mistreatment as well as costly settlements.
“All of us in the Charleston community want to see justice for Jamal and this is one step forward toward doing that,” she said.
The settlement now needs to be filed with the court and approved by a judge.
The two deputies involved were fired and Peper says they are both part of this $10 million agreement, meaning they will not be sued individually in a civil case.
But as for criminal charges, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she hopes to decide whether charges can be filed by the end of June depending on investigations that are still underway.
Original Source: Yahoo News
The family of Jamal Sutherland has received a $10 million settlement in the wake of his wrongful jailhouse death.
On Tuesday, the Charleston County council unanimously approved the $10 million settlement, NBC News reports.
“I am so happy that it was a unanimous decision to do what is right by the Sutherland family,” said Council Chairman Teddie Pryor. “We know that no amount of money will bring their loved one back, but I think this starts the healing process.”
In January, 31-year-old Sutherland died after two deputies attempted to forcibly remove Sutherland from a jail cell. The day before, Sutherland was arrested after a fight at the Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health psychiatric facility where he was receiving mental health treatment, NBC News reports.
“He was already afraid and confused about the situation and there was nobody in there to talk to him with any compassion. Those individuals that are responsible, they need to be let go,” said Jamal Sutherland’s father, James Sutherland, during a press conference earlier this month.
Video footage of Sutherland’s struggle with deputies at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center was released by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office on May 12. In it, Sutherland is seen crying out in pain and laying on the floor as a deputy tased him repeatedly. The 31-year-old died roughly an hour and 15 minutes after the incident. Two officers have been identified as Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle and both were fired on May 17, CNN reports.
The local outrage incited by the release of the video led to many protests in Charleston. Some protestors pointed out that the details of Sutherland’s brutal encounter were painfully reminiscent of those of George Floyd‘s murder. At one point during the struggle, Houle had his knee on Sutherland’s neck while Sutherland was handcuffed. He’s heard saying “I can’t breathe”.
“Mental illness does not give anyone the right to put their hands on my child… I had 16 surgeries and Jamal never left my side, even when he was going to the mental hospital he wanted to make sure that his mom was alright,” said Sutherland’s mother, Amy Sutherland. “Remember, he is a human being. He is not an animal. He was treated like one, but that’s not who he was.”
Last week, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said that the investigation into criminal charges for the officers involved is ongoing. In her statement, Wilson noted that Sutherland’s autopsy stated that he died “as a result of excited state with pharmacotherapeutic effect during subdual process,” and the review of the extrication process did not reveal any “unusual or excessive interactions or areas of direct concern.”
Wilson said those results “raised many questions” for her and she is seeking a second opinion.
Original Source: USA Today
Officials agreed Tuesday to pay $10 million to the family of a Black man who died after two sheriff’s deputies used pepper spray and stun guns on him in a South Carolina jail in January.
The Charleston County Council unanimously approved the settlement for the family of Jamal Sutherland, 31, as the country marked the one-year anniversary of the killing of George Floyd on Tuesday. Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said at the meeting he had met with Sutherland’s family and pledged to work on reform.
“We know that no amount of money will bring their loved one back, but I think this starts the healing process,” Pryor said. “This should never happen to anyone ever again. Ever.”
Sutherland was arrested after officers were called to investigate a fight at Palmetto Behavioral Health, a mental health and substance abuse center. He was booked into jail Jan. 4 on charges of third-degree assault and battery.
The next morning, the deputies arrived to take him to a court appearance, then repeatedly tased him after he refused to be handcuffed and leave his cell, according to video released by the county May 13. The deputies repeatedly ordered him to kneel, and they pepper-sprayed him, video shows.
One deputy put his knee on Sutherland’s back for more than two minutes as he was handcuffed. Sutherland said, “I can’t breathe.”
An hour later, he was pronounced dead. His death brought protests and calls for criminal charges.
An initial statement released on Sutherland’s death said deputies “reported an unresponsive inmate” and notified state police, per standard procedure. The deputies were placed on administrative leave with pay.
Mark Peper, an attorney for the Sutherland family, said that Sutherland’s schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were so severe that he should never have been held in a nonmedical portion of the jail and that the video portrayed a “use of force that was so unnecessary and excessive that there are no words.”
Days after video of Sutherland’s death was released, Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano announced she was terminating detention Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and detention Deputy Brian Houle for their involvement.
“I must weigh the interest of public safety for the community against any incident that creates even the perception of an impairment to the operation of the Detention Center for the safety of all residents, staff and our community,” Graziano said in a statement.
The local prosecutor, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, said last week her office was investigating to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
Original Source: New York Times:
Charleston County, S.C. officials unanimously approved an agreement with the family of Jamal Sutherland, who died in January, when sheriff’s duties used pepper spray and tasers on him.
A county in South Carolina on Tuesday agreed to pay $ 10 million to the family of a black man who died in January, when sheriff’s deputies shot pepper spray and tessers at him in a prison closet. Used, as he told them, “I can’t breathe,” officials said.
In a unanimous vote, Charleston County Council approved the settlement of the death of 31-year-old Jamal Sutherland, who was then taken from the mental health facility to the county jail.
His death on 5 January has attracted protests and comparisons to the murder of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
The agreement came after several Americans stayed on Tuesday to recall Mr. Floyd a year after his death, which became the catalyst for a nationwide enumeration on police brutality and systemic racism.
This occurred on May 17 following the shootings of two deputies involved in Mr. Sutherland’s death, an encounter shown in graphic video footage that was released this month by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. One of the deputy placed a knee on Mr. Sutherland’s back.
Before the settlement was approved, the county and Sutherland families engaged in arbitration negotiations in an effort to avoid formal litigation, the television station WCSC reported. According to local news media outlets, the council’s Finance Committee had previously recommended that the full council approve the $ 10 million agreement.
Councilman Teddy E. Prior Senior said during the meeting that he had promised the Sutherland family that he would look into what improvements could be made in public safety.
“It should never happen to anyone again,” Mr. Prior said. “sometimes.”
A lawyer for Mr. Sutherland’s family did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.
The payment adds to the list of eight-figure settlements in several high-profile murders of black people involving law enforcement officers. In March, Mr. Floyd’s family signed a $ 27 million settlement with the city of Minneapolis. Earlier this month, authorities in Columbus, Ohio, agreed to pay $ 10 million to the family of Andre Hill, a black man who was badly shot by a police officer in a garage in December was.
C. Brentley Moody, a member of the Charleston County Council, said during a group meeting on Tuesday that he was struggling with whether to endorse the agreement. He admitted that “globally, this race at the courthouse” bothered him.
“What was done was a terrible injustice,” Mr. Moody said. “But how do you solve it? I don’t know what the answer is.”
The local prosecutor is expected to decide in June whether the deputation, Sergeant. Lindsey Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle will face criminal charges in Mr. Sutherland’s death. The Ninth Circuit Solicitor, prosecutor, Scarlett A. Wilson, said earlier this month that she was reviewing the results of an investigation into the actions of deputies conducted by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
Ms. Fickett and Mr. Houle were placed on administrative leave before their firing was announced on May 17 Twitter By Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano.
Deputies were trying to extricate Mr. Sutherland from a closet at the county jail’s Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center to take him to court for a bond hearing on January 5, when the fatal encounter occurred.
In the video footage released by the sheriff, deputies were seen firing a taser at Mr. Sutherland’s cell using pepper spray twice. Mr. Sutherland was killed by Tesser six to eight times, Mr. Houle later said in the video.
The video showed Mr. Sutherland moaning on the ground before he eventually lost consciousness. Shortly thereafter, he was pronounced dead, with a pathologist ruling that the manner of his death was “uncertain”. The pathologist stated that Mr. Sutherland died “as a result of an agitated state with pharmacotherapeutic effects during the sub-procedure.”
The officials would not discuss the results of the autopsy further and said that the post-mortem examination report would not be released as it was not a public document.
Mr Sutherland was taken to jail from Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health, a mental health facility, where he was arrested after a fight on 4 January. Mental health center staff told responding officers that Mr. Sutherland had assaulted a staff member. He and another patient were charged with third-degree assault and battery Post and courier Of Charleston.
On the day of his arrest, a video showed Mr. Sutherland in distress. He shouted “Let me go” at the authorities and spoke of intrigues, including references to the Illuminati, the group – real and fictional – dating back centuries and possessing special knowledge.
By Renee Sexton
The family of an inmate who was killed by two other inmates in a South Carolina prison has received $275,000 in a mediated wrongful death settlement, the family’s attorneys report.
Mark Peper and Marvin Pendarvis of the Peper Law Firm in Charleston report that the family of Michael Lorenzo Jones sued the South Carolina Department of Corrections in McCormick County Circuit Court for wrongful death and negligent hiring, training, and supervision.
The family’s attorneys said that Jones was serving a sentence at McCormick Correctional Institution in 2016 when he was attacked by the other two inmates and stabbed with a homemade shank. Jones received routine medical care and returned to his cell, but died about half an hour after he was stabbed.
At the time of the attack, a single correctional officer was covering the unit where the incident occurred and all interior doors–including all cell doors and those leading into and out of each wing–were unlocked and open, which allowed inmates to move around at will and unsupervised, Peper and Pendarvis said.
Information obtained through discovery revealed overcrowding at the prison, a lack of adequate supervision due to a shortage of staff correctional officers, failure to properly train, monitor and supervise correctional officers, failure to have proper policies and protocols in place to provide for inmate safety, and failure to provide the proper level of security in the wing after being notified of prior violent incidents there, the attorneys said.
The attorneys also argued that SCDC employees had failed to properly locate and dispose of contraband, properly classify and monitor inmates, and provide immediate medical care. Pendarvis said Jones had filed complaints with SCDC saying that he had been threatened and feared for his life and asking for help.
One of the inmates was charged with murder. The other was charged with accessory to murder.
“What happened to Mr. Jones was the result of a number of missteps that led to him ultimately being killed,” Pendarvis said. “If you have a facility that has a reputation, if you’ve got a unit within that facility that has a reputation of being a unit where certain types of violence occur, and you do nothing to address the ability for inmates to get their hands on chains or weapons that could carry out harm, you’re negligent.”
Jimmy King of Anderson mediated the settlement, which was approved on Nov. 12.
Pendarvis said the demand was limited by the cap on damages imposed by the South Carolina Tort Claims Act. He said the family knew at the beginning of the process that the settlement amount would be limited, but they hope the suit will force SCDC to address its staffing issues at McCormick.
“It’s clear that it’s understaffed. It’s clear that there are things that continue to take place within the department that need to be addressed,”Pendarvis said. “Just because someone’s been sentenced to time doesn’t mean that it’s a death sentence. It shouldn’t have to be that way, especially when it could be prevented and you have officers that are tasked with ensuring that inmates are able to serve their time without fear of death, and they need to be held accountable.”
Steven Pruitt with McDonald Patrick in Greenwood represented the SCDC. Neither he nor the department responded to a request for comment.
Follow Renee Sexton on Twitter @BobcatRenee
SETTLEMENT REPORT — WRONGFUL DEATH
Injuries alleged: Death
Case name: Estate of Michael Lorenzo Jones v. South Carolina Department of Corrections
Court: McCormick County Circuit Court
Case No.: 2018-CP-35-055
Mediator: Jimmy King of Anderson
Insurance carrier: South Carolina Insurance Reserve Fund
Attorneys for plaintiff: Mark Peper and Marvin Pendarvis of the Peper Law Firm in Charleston
Attorney for defendant: Steven Pruitt of McDonald Patrick in Greenwood
Link (subscription required): https://sclawyersweekly.com/news/2020/01/15/family-of-man-killed-in-prison-settles-case-for-275k/
STATEMENT FROM MARK A. PEPER, ATTORNEY FOR GOOSE CREEK SHOOTING VICTIMS
Charleston, SC – Mark A. Peper, attorney for the victims in the Goose Creek shooting that occurred earlier tonight, released the following statement on behalf of the shooting victims:
“After complaining of noisy kids in the street, a neighbor opened fire late this afternoon. They believe the intended target was their 8 year old grandson and 1 year old granddaughter who was in the arms of her mother as they walked in front of their residence on Gator Drive. The female homeowner, 57, was hit once in the chest. The male homeowner, 48, was shot in the upper back and arm as he shielded his family from additional gunfire. Both victims were transported to Trident Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries and are expected to make a full recovery. The family is pleased with the quick response from members of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office and emergency personnel, and appreciates the community’s continued prayers and support.”
For Immediate Release
May 17, 2017
Media Contact: Tyler Jones – 252-675-7606
Attorneys of Goose Creek High School Student Raise Additional Concerns Regarding School’s Cell Phone Policies
Charleston, SC – Mark A. Peper and David Aylor, attorneys for a 16 year old Goose Creek High School student who was filmed in a bathroom stall on school property by a fellow student, sent a letter to the attorney for Berkeley County School District outlining the gross negligence demonstrated by faculty and administrators at GCHS in regards to the school’s cell phone recording policies.
The video footage of the incident was posted by a student to the popular social media application, Snapchat.
In the letter, attorney Mark A. Peper asserts that after speaking with various students, parents and faculty members, and despite school policy that expressly prohibits the use of electronic devices to record any student or staff member at school, the practice of unauthorized cell phone recording by students is the custom and culture at Goose Creek High School.
“In speaking with various students, parents and faculty members this week, it cannot be disputed that unauthorized cell phone use by students during the school day is the custom and culture at Goose Creek High School, which can only be attributed to the actual or tacit approval of the entire administration, and specifically, Principal Jimmy Huskey, since deviating from the policies, procedures, and rules requires prior permission from the principal himself. In speaking with the School Resource Officer assigned to GCHS, I am confident that we can prove the school was on actual notice of students’ habitual use of cell phones to record daily events, and further, that the use of cell phones to record students, teachers and faculty has become so customary that it is considered condoned by the Principal himself.”
Additionally, attorney Peper points to the fact that Goose Creek High School’s own website still lists the cell phone policies of the previous academic school year which prohibit even the possession of cell phones during the school day as proof of the custom and culture regarding cell phone recordings at the school.
In the letter, attorneys Peper and Aylor state their intention to file a lawsuit against the Berkeley County School District if immediate steps are not taken on or before May 24, 2017 to amicably resolve this matter.
The letter from attorney Mark A. Peper to the Berkeley County School District is attached to this press release.
Interview requests for Mark A. Peper, Esq, should be sent to Tyler Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.