Second suit filed in Marion County jail suicides

January 27, 2016

The second federal lawsuit in two months has been filed against the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, claiming wrongful death and civil rights violations on behalf of an inmate who committed suicide in the Indianapolis jail two years ago.

A complaint was filed last week on behalf of the estate of DeJuan L. Shepherd, whose death in the jail on Jan. 23, 2014, was ruled a suicide by hanging. Shepherd was in the Marion County lockup on pretrial detention on charges of auto theft and receiving stolen property.
According to the suit filed Jan. 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis, Shepherd was found hanging in a shower cell and pronounced dead a short time later.

“At the time of his initial incarceration, DeJuan Shepherd was suffering from heroin and alcohol withdrawals, and was also screened for bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, and severe anxiety,” the suit claims. “Shepherd’s physical and mental health problems made (him) a suicide risk, and should have triggered enhanced evaluation and monitoring while he was in jail.”

Rather, the suit claims Shepherd was not monitored or supervised as a possible suicide threat and was placed in the general population.

Katie Carlson, a spokeswoman for Marion County Sheriff John Layton, said the department does not comment on pending litigation.

The suit was filed by Indianapolis lawyer Eric Pavlack, who also sued Marion County in December on behalf of the estate of Mark Snyder two years after he died in jail. While he was awaiting trial on child molestation charges, jail officials found him hanging in his cell, the suit alleges.

Both suits allege these cases are not isolated occurrences. Pavlack said Wednesday at least two other inmates at the jail died from apparent suicides and at least one other attempted suicide has been publicly reported. Pavlack said the incidence of deaths at the Marion County Jail is about twice the state average.


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