Lawsuit: Mentally ill man froze to death in Alabama jail
MONTGOMERY, ALA. >> A mentally ill man froze to death at an Alabama jail, according to a lawsuit filed by the man’s family who say he was kept naked in a concrete cell and believe he was also placed in a freezer or other frigid environment.
Anthony Don Mitchell, 33, arrived at a hospital emergency room with a body temperature of 72 degrees (22 degrees Celsius), and was pronounced dead hours later, according to the lawsuit. He was brought to the hospital on Jan. 26 from the Walker County Jail, where he’d been incarcerated for two weeks.
An emergency room doctor, who tried unsuccessfully to revive Mitchell, wrote, “I do believe hypothermia was the ultimate cause of his death,” according to the lawsuit filed Monday by Mitchell’s mother in federal court.
Mitchell, who had a history of drug addiction, was arrested Jan. 12 after a cousin asked authorities to do a welfare check on him because he was rambling about portals to heaven and hell in his home and appeared to be suffering a mental breakdown. Jail video shows Mitchell was kept naked in a concrete-floored isolation cell, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit speculates that Mitchell was also placed in the jail kitchen’s “walk-in freezer or similar frigid environment and left there for hours” because his body temperature was so low.
“It is clear that Tony’s death was wrongful, the result of horrific, malicious abuse and mountains of deliberate indifference,” Jon C. Goldfarb, a lawyer representing the family, wrote in the lawsuit. “Numerous corrections officers and medical staff wandered over to his open cell door to spectate and be entertained by his condition.”
The suit also accuses the sheriff’s office of a coverup. The sheriff’s office issued a statement saying Mitchell “was alert and conscious when he left the facility.” Jail security footage shows officers carrying Mitchell’s limp body to a transport car.