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$20,000 Settlement in Oklahoma Nuisance Claim, Prisoner’s Suicide

Oklahoma County, Oklahoma Sheriff John Whetsel and Oklahoma County paid $20,000 to settle a nuisance claim. The settlement came in a lawsuit filed by David Bard and his two minor children.

Bard, in his April 11, 2007 complaint alleged that from March 2005 until July 18, 2005, his common law wife Somar Bakar, being held in the Oklahoma County Jail on charges of child abuse, was incessantly threatened, taunted, harassed and verbally abused by jailhouse guards. It was their willful and malicious intent to persecute her as punishment for the acts she was alleged to have committed.

Bakar admitted in a mental health evaluation to hearing voices and having hallucinations. She was eventually placed on suicide watch for attempting to commit suicide 12 times during her four month jail stay. On July 18, 2005 as a direct result of being unable to cope with the ongoing abuse, Bakar succeeded in her final suicide attempt, hanging herself with a towel. She was 25 years old.

It was contended by Bard that it was impossible for Sheriff Whetsel to not have known that corrective action needed to be taken to protect prisoners within his jail. The U.S. Justice Department had extensively critiqued the jail’s procedures, addressing specific concerns as to the supervision of mentally unstable and suicidal prisoners. Over $2.5 million had already been paid by the jail in settlements, some of which were related to the deaths of 44 prisoners over the last eight years.

It was through Sheriff Whetsel’s lack of proper employee screening, training, counseling and supervision that allowed for the wanton abuse and disregard of the health and safety of Bakar that led to her death.

A $20,000 settlement was reached in December 2008. Bard and his two children were represented by Oklahoma City attorney R. Robyn Assaf. See: Bard v. Whetsel, USDC, W.D. of Oklahoma, Case No. 5:07-CV-00422.

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Related legal case

Bard v. Whetsel