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$1,800,000 Settlement in Michigan Jail Prisoner Suicide Case

On January 1, 2008, the defendants in a Michigan federal civil rights action involving the suicide of a jail prisoner settled the case for $1,800,000, the largest jail suicide settlement in Michigan history.

Tatisha Grant, 23, was arrested by River Rouge, Michigan police officers at about 2:00 a.m. in a bar parking lot on an outstanding warrant for loitering. She was uncooperative and fought the arresting police officers. She attempted escape, but was discovered hiding under a car in the police garage and sprayed with chemicals to drive her out into the open. She was hosed off and put in a cell. At shift change, arriving Lt. Camilla Worthy was informed of events and told to watch Grant closely. Police policy called for hourly checks on all prisoners, more frequent in cases like Grant’s. Worthy waited well over an hour to check on Grant, then discovered her body hanging from the drawstring of her sweatpants.

A videotape of Grant’s cell shows her banging her head against the cell wall and covering the camera lens with bread from her breakfast tray. When the bread fell off ten minutes later, it shows her hanging body and eventually records the arrival of the emergency medical responders. An audio tape from the jail’s interview room revealed guards discussing Grant’s bizarre behavior, including self-mutilation by biting chunks out of her arm. However, they failed to summon medi-cal or psychiatric help for Grant while she lived. An autopsy revealed the presence of cocaine in Grant’s body.

Worthy was charged with misdemeanor willful neglect of duty. A jury acquitted her. The suit alleged that she and Sgt. Jeffery Harris committed gross negligence, indifference and criminal negligence.

Grant’s estate was represented by Farmington Hills attorney Arnold E. Reed. He has asked the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office to reopen its investigation into Grant’s death. See: Grant v. River Rouge Police Dept., USDC-MI, No. 2:06-CV-14267-PBD.

Additional Sources: Detroit Free Press, Michigan Trial Reporter

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Related legal case

Grant v. River Rouge Police Dept.