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$3.5 Million Settlement in Teen’s Death at New York Juvenile Facility

A $3.5 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit over the death of a juvenile offender who was restrained by two staffers at the Tryon Boys Residential Center in Fulton County, New York.

The suit claimed that the civil rights of Darryl Anthony Thompson, 15, were violated as a result of excessive force used by Tryon employees in November 2006. The incident that led to Thompson’s death began after he was denied recreation and engaged in a shouting match with Tryon aide John P. Johnson. After being pushed by Thompson, Johnson and another aide, Robert Murphy, restrained him facedown on the floor.

Johnson put his weight on Thompson’s torso and raised his arms behind his back as Murphy sat on his legs. Thompson said he couldn’t breathe, but Johnson and Murphy continued to restrain him until he stopped struggling and was unconscious, according to the complaint. Several minutes elapsed before anyone tried to revive him.

“You have a child lying on the floor that you know is in distress, and you do nothing. It’s unforgivable,” said Elmer R. Keach III, the attorney who represented Thompson’s family in their federal lawsuit.

The medical examiner ruled Thompson’s death a homicide because the force that was used on him led to stress that caused a heart arrhythmia. Yet, as typically occurs in prisoners’ deaths, Johnson and Murphy did not face criminal charges – though they reportedly no longer work for the state.

A settlement agreement in the suit was finalized in November 2011. Thompson’s mother, Anntwanisha Thompson, will receive approximately $2.28 million of the settlement, with the rest going to attorney fees and costs. “No amount of money will bring this young man back to life; no amount of money can compensate his loved ones for his absence,” Keach remarked. See: Thompson v. Johnson, U.S.D.C. (N.D. NY), Case No. 6:08-cv-01241-DNH-ATB.

The Tryon facility was closed in 2010 as part of a statewide effort to downsize juvenile prisons in favor of day treatment centers closer to youths’ homes. A 2009 federal investigation found that employees at four New York juvenile facilities, including Tryon, had used force as a primary means of restraining youths, causing serious injuries. [See: PLN, Nov. 2011, p.32].

Sources: Associated Press, Times Union,

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Related legal case

Thompson v. Johnson