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Marin County, California Settles Wrongful Jail Death For $1 Million

by John E. Dannenberg

Marin County, California settled with the surviving family of a man who died after being hog-tied upon his arrest by Marin County Sheriff deputies.

Cary Grime was a pedestrian at 2 a.m. in the city of Novato on August 17, 2003. He was observed by Sheriff?s Deputy Jonathan Harrison, who suspected Grime of being drunk in public. After Harrison had had verbal contact with Grime, Grime turned and walked away. Harrison arrested the unarmed Grime by rushing him from behind and knocking him to the ground. There, Harrison put Grime in a prone position and physically held his head and neck down. Deputy Michael Blasi joined him and the two reportedly beat and otherwise severely physically abused the pinned-down 5?6? 145 lb. Grime. Despite Grime?s screams and pleas for help, Harrison and Blasi hog-tied Grime and put him on his stomach in the police car. (Many law enforcement agencies prohibit hog-tying, but not Marin County.)

At the jail, Grime was carried in still hog-tied, and searched with his stomach and face on the floor. The hog-tied position was continued until Grime was observed to be comatose on his jail cell floor, ?in acute respiratory distress.? In fact, he was already brain dead, and never recovered before life-support systems were discontinued two days later. Cause of death was ruled to be heart failure due to positional asphyxia from hog-tying, aggravated by the pressure of the two deputies on top of him while he was on his stomach.

Grime?s family brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California Civil Code § 52.1, seeking unspecified damages, statutory damages and punitive damages. The claims included depriving Grime of life without substantive due process of law and use of excessive force by the deputies; failure to hire and properly train officers; exercising willful and malicious acts with reckless indifference to Grime?s safety, proximately causing his death -- based upon customs (hog-tying) of Marin County; and violation of Grime?s civil rights by threats, coercion and intimidation.

After two days of mediation, the parties finalized a written settlement agreement on May 29, 2006 to pay Grime?s family $1 million, inclusive of all costs and fees, and granting a general release to Marin County. Nonetheless, Marin County refused thereafter to pay up until the plaintiffs agreed to more conditions. Frustrated, on October 6, 2006, plaintiffs sought enforcement of payment from the court. See: Grime v. County of Marin, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Cal.), Case No. C 04 2507 MMC.

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Related legal case

Grime v. County of Marin

The complaint is available in the brief bank.