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Connecticut Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuit for $2.9 Million

Connecticut Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuit For $2.9 Million

by Michael Rigby

On April 4, 2002, the State of Connecticut agreed to settle for $2.9 million a lawsuit arising from the wrongful death of Timothy Perry, a mentally ill man who died after being forcefully restrained by prison guards.

Perry, 21, had a history of mental illness and spent much of his life as a patient in facilities operated by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), according to the lawsuit. On January 26, 1999, Perry was admitted to Cedarcrest Regional Hospital, a DMHAS facility, and diagnosed by Dr. Asha Qusba as suffering from a number of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, impulse control disorder, and major depression.

Perry's illness, the complaint alleged, caused him to engage in aggressive and impulsive behavior, which he displayed against a Cedarcrest staff member on or about March 27, 1999. However, rather than have Perry transferred to a maximum-security DMHAS facility which is proper procedure Cedarcrest staff pursued criminal charges and had Perry transferred to the custody of the Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC) three days later.

On April 12, his twelfth day of imprisonment at the Hartford Correctional Center, Perry became severely agitated and anxious, again the result of his illness, alleged the lawsuit. At approximately 7:45 p.m. a number of guards descended on Perry, using force to restrain him. The guards then carried Perry to a cell where they placed him face down on a mattress and shackled him with leg irons. Guard Jimmy Guerrero obtained a towel and held it over Perry's mouth and face.

During this time, according to the complaint, a nurse spoke with prison psychiatrist Ronald Hensley, who prescribed powerful sedatives and ordered Perry to be tied down. Hensley was never informed, nor did he inquire, about Perry's medical condition, even though by this time Perry was already "unconscious, comatose, dying or dead."

On Hensley's orders, Perry was carried to a 4-point restraint cell where he was injected with Ativan and Haldol, according to the lawsuit. Perry was then tied down by his wrists and ankles while Guerrero continued to hold the towel over Perry's face. At approximately 8:30 p.m. Perry was left alone in the cell. No effort was made by anyone to check Perry's medical condition.

Two hours later a nurse noticed that Perry's feet were discolored and that he was in the exact same position he had been left in earlier. Upon entering the cell, the nurse determined that Perry was dead and had been for some time, the complaint contended.

After the incident, Captain Geraldo Torres allegedly allowed Guerrero and another guard to view a videotape of the use of force and to erase portions of it. Moreover, none of the guards were appropriately punished or disciplined following Perry's death alleged the complaint.

On April 11, 2001, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on behalf of Perry's estate. Named as defendants were the DOC, DMHAS, and various prison officials and medical personnel.

However, on April 4, 2002, before the case went to trial, the State of Connecticut on behalf of itself and the other defendants and without admitting liability agreed to settle the lawsuit for $2.9 million.

Perry's estate was represented by attorneys Richard Bieder and Antonio Ponvert, III, of the law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, P.C. See: Estate of Perry v. Armstrong, USDC D CT, Case No. 3:01CV582(AVC).

John Armstrong, the director of the Connecticut prison system at the time of Perry's murder, was later tapped to rebuild Iraq's prison system under the American occupation of that country. See the September 2004, PLN for details.


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Related legal case

Estate of Perry v. Armstrong