A Mississippi jail finds itself, again, in the spotlight over the death of a Black inmate under suspicious circumstances.
Attorneys representing the family of Harvey Hill, who died nine months ago at the Madison County jail, announced on Tuesday that they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the sheriff and other officials, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
Hill was arrested for trespassing on May 6 and died in custody one day later.
Part of the family’s frustration is that after nine months they still have no official answers about the exact cause of Hill’s death. They don’t believe that Hill, 36, died from possible cardiac arrest, as they were told. The family believes he died after jail guards “brutally” beat him.
“That is totally unacceptable,” attorney Carlos Moore said, noting that the family still has not received an official autopsy report. “Had the results been in the county’s favor, they would have released them by now.”
Hill’s death was one of three such deaths at the jail in 2018, in which families suspect foul play. Larry Thompson, 51, died three days after his release from the jail in November. And in December, Lanekia Michelle Brown, 37, was four weeks pregnant when she was reportedly found dead in her jail cell.
The lawsuit accuses the jail guards of beating and pepper-spraying Hill while he was handcuffed because he failed to show proper respect to one of the guards. They allegedly returned Hill without medical care to his cell, where he was found dead.
In Brown’s case, she was reportedly discovered dead in her cell when a nurse went to check on her after she had complained about having stomach pains, according to the official account. Brown’s mother said she was not allowed to see her daughter’s remains in the days after her death. She demanded answers but received no explanation about how she died.
Moore, who is also representing Brown’s family, said at a news conference in January that he was looking into whether Brown was given proper medical care. He suspected that jail officials discriminated against her.
Thompson’s family said he was healthy when he walked into the jail but was nearly unconscious and unable to walk when he was released. While incarcerated, Thompson called home and said he had been beaten, his son recalled. The family said witnesses at the prison also told them that jail officials had assaulted Thompson. They too are demanding answers.