No Qualified Immunity for Jail Guard Who Ignored Suicidal Prisoner Tying Noose Around Neck
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Ellis v. Washington County and Johnson City, Tenn.
The decedent hanged himself after being arrested for irrational behavior under the influence of drugs. His mother, a Ph.D. clinical psychologist, said two months later that he was not suicidal when she spoke with him shortly before the suicide. In the absence of any contrary information about him on the part of anyone connected with the jail, they and the county could not be found to have proximately caused the suicide. The only exception is a jailer who allegedly saw the decedent (via a monitor) tie a noose around a bar at 1:45 p.m. but did not tell anybody or call an emergency medical team for ten minutes. The court reluctantly denies summary judgment on qualified immunity because of this factual dispute; the reluctance is because the allegation is hearsay, but the court thinks Johnson v. Jones requires that it be credited at this stage. See: Ellis v. Washington County and Johnson City, Tenn., 198 F.3d 225 (6th Cir. 1999).