In case you believe you may have lost your capacity to feel outraged, check out this story in the Chicago Tribune,
As thefts go, this was about as petty as it gets: a Snickers bar, a 2-liter Mountain Dew and a Zebra cake worth about $5 total.
But a 24-year-old Portsmouth [Virginia] man died in jail while awaiting trial on the charges.
Jamycheal Mitchell, who had a history of mental illness, was found dead in his cell at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail early on Aug. 19, four months after being arrested and charged with petty larceny and trespassing at a 7-Eleven.
Still to be determined is how he died, why he was jailed for so long on such charges and who represented him during his months in jail. His next scheduled hearing date was Sept. 4.
Master Jail Officer Natasha Perry said Mitchell’s death appears to be from natural causes. Donna Price, spokeswoman for the state Medical Examiner’s Office, said its investigations typically take between 12 and 18 weeks.
Mr. Mitchell was incompetent to stand trial and the case should have been dismissed. Here’s the Trib article again,
A forensic psychologist evaluated Mitchell to determine whether he was competent to stand trial. The psychologist said Mitchell was “manic and psychotic” during the interview. “Mr. Mitchell’s thought processes were so confused that only snippets of his sentences could be understood, the rest were mumbled statements that made no rational sense,” wrote Evan Nelson.
Mitchell twirled around the visitation cell, rapped, spit on the floor and exposed himself, Nelson wrote.
Another court document for a mental health evaluation dated 2010 described Mitchell as “acutely psychotic.” Later that year, an evaluator wrote to the court that Mitchell was “unrestorably incompetent to stand trial” on a charge of petty larceny and recommended the case be dismissed, with continuing outpatient treatment.
Mr. Mitchell may have starved to death, according to relatives. His aunt, Roxanne Adams, who is a registered nurse, told The Guardian, which broke the story,
Adams said medics at the jail told her Mitchell refused to take medication for his conditions. Before his arrest her nephew was on prescriptions for the antipsychotic drugs Prolixin and Zyprexin, and the mood stabiliser Depakote, according to Adams. She said prison officials then prescribed him the antipsychotic drug Haldol and Cogentin, which is intended to reduce the side-effects of the other medication, but he refused to take the drugs.
[Little wonder since Haldol is an older generation drug rarely given anymore because it turns people into zombies with severe muscle spasms and a thousand-mile stare. Jails give it because it’s cheaper.]
Adams said prison officials said her nephew had also been declining to eat. She said she saw Mitchell in court in recent weeks and estimated that he had lost 65 pounds since being detained. “He was extremely emaciated,” said Adams.
The aunt said relatives had not been able to visit Mitchell because he had not given jail officials their names as approved visitors. “His mind was gone because he wasn’t taking his meds, so he didn’t have a list for anyone to see him,” she said.
Mr. Mitchell was being held in solitary confinement because that’s what jails do with the mentally ill. If the jail staff did not kill him by withholding food, he may have starved himself to death by refusing to eat or drink. The jail cannot escape responsibility for his death, if he starved himself to death, because they should have realized what was happening and transported him to a medical hospital long before he died.. Apparently, they did not give damn. Unfortunately, that too is typical of how jails treat the mentally ill.
The prosecution and the court also bear moral responsibility for his death because he was permitted, if not encouraged, to sign a waiver of his right to counsel while he was incompetent and unable to understand what he was doing. Neither can be sued because both have absolute immunity from liability for what they do, according to the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS).
Although a public defender was eventually appointed to represent him, the lawyer was on vacation when he died. Because I do not know when, or even if, his lawyer knew that she had been appointed to represent him, I cannot determine whether she bears any responsibility for his death.
On May 21st, a judge found him incompetent to stand trial and ordered him transferred to a state mental hospital. Unfortunately, the transfer never happened. The jail claims that they were told that no bed was available at the hospital. The hospital isn’t talking. The lawyer is on vacation.
In short, everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else or refusing to talk.
Res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself. Due to gross negligence while in state custody, Jamycheal Mitchell is dead. He died alone and afraid.
This is how we treat the mentally ill in this country.