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$377,500 Awarded in Tennessee Jail Death

In September 2001, a federal jury in Memphis, Tennessee, awarded $377,500 in damages to the estate of a mentally ill jail prisoner killed by guards. In November 1996, Calvin Shaw, a paranoid schizophrenic, was arrested on sexual assault charges and imprisoned at the Davidson county jail. Three days later, Shaw was to be moved to an isolation cell after threatening prisoners and attacking a guard.

Jail guards Bryan Brewster, Larry Craig Pearson and Timothy Anthony attempted to move Shaw to isolation. A sheriff's investigation concluded the guards used excessive force. Shaw suffered a nosebleed, which had apparently stopped bleeding, then began clawing at his nostrils. The guards responded by applying gauze, tape and a hood over his head and then took him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead of asphyxiation within an hour of arrival.

Shaw's mother, Margaret Dowdy, filed suit in federal court claiming the Davidson County Sheriff's department violated Shaw's rights by killing him. A jury agreed and awarded Dowdy $377,500 in damages. $187,500 in damages was awarded against Davidson County; $187,500 was awarded against Prison Health Services, the jail's private, for profit health services contractor, and $2,500 against Brewster. Apparently the defendants did not appeal the verdict because the local county board voted to authorize the damage payment.

Source: The Tennessean

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