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California County Pays $400,000 For Mentally Ill Prisoner's Suicide

On July 13, 2001, Contra Costa County, California, agreed to pay $400,000
to settle a federal wrongful death lawsuit stemming from the suicide of a
mentally ill prisoner in the county jail.

In 1999, Kyle Kentera, a 32-year-old man with a history of mental illness,
was serving a two-month sentence at the Contra Costa County Jail, where he
had been imprisoned a number of times in the previous 18 months. Kentera
was housed in jail's Mental Health Unit.

The day before his suicide, Kentera allegedly stuffed a sock down his
throat and told the staff he was trying to hurt himself. The next day,
November 6, 1999, Kentera was sent to a safety cell and observed for one
hour. Kentera was then returned to general population with instructions
that he remain under constant supervision at all times. The deputy in
charge, David Cook, apparently did not get the instruction.
Unmonitored for several hours, Kentera at some point entered an unlocked
utility closet and hung himself with an electric cord. His body was
discovered about an hour later.

Kentera's mother, Valerie Kentera, sued the County for wrongful death under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging it was deliberately indifferent to Kentera's
health and welfare in violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment
rights. Ms. Kentera also alleged that deputy Cook violated county policy in
failing to lock the utility room door.

The County contended Kentera had shown no signs of suicidal ideation and
that his behavior prior to the suicide appeared to be drug-seeking behavior.

The case settled early on for $400,000 during mediation before retired
judge Richard Patsey. Ms. Kentera was represented by Stan Casper of the
Walnut Creek, California, law firm Casper, Meadows, and Schwartz. See:
Kentera v. Contra Costa County, USDC ND CA, Case No. C004053WH0.

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Related legal case

Kentera v. Contra Costa County