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$1 Million Settlement in Oklahoma City Jail Fatal Prisoner Beating Suit by Matt Clarke

Oklahoma County approved a $1 million settlement in a civil rights suit involving a prisoner who was first denied his anti-seizure medication then fatally beaten by guards when he had a seizure in an Oklahoma City jail. Correctional Healthcare Management of Oklahoma, Inc. (CHM), the jail's medical services provider, had previously entered into a confidential settlement with the plaintiffs.

Christopher Beckman was 34 years old when he was arrested for DUI, driving with a suspended license and not wearing a seatbelt. He was transported to the Oklahoma County Detention Center. During the booking process, his medications were taken from him despite the fact that he told jail employees he needed the Xanax and Lortab, which had been prescribed to him, to prevent seizures and would have seizures if he didn't take the medication.

Two days later, Beckman had still not been given access to his mediations. He suffered a seizure in his cell. Responding deputies struck Beckman on the back of his head, slammed his head into the elevator and smashed his head into a door to open it as they transported him to the jail's clinic. At the clinic, Beckman was beaten in the face.

Beckman was transported to the hospital where he died two days later. The medical examiner's report listed the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head. Beckman's wife, parents and estate filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal district court against CHM, the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners, Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whestel and Oklahoma County Deputies Justin Isch, Robert Roy, John Littlejohn, William Hathorn, Kellie Cunningham, Ervin Busby and and Teri Streeter. The complaint alleged that Littlejohn. Roy and Isch caused Beckman's fatal injuries while the other deputies watched and failed to intervene. The complaint claimed excessive use of force; deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, and failure to properly hire, train, supervise and discipline deputies working at the jail. A state-law wrongful death claim pursuant to 12 O.S. §§1053 and 1054 was also included.

The sheriff asked the FBI to investigate Beckman's death. This resulted in three of the deputies being criminally charged. The civil case was delayed until the criminal trials were completed.

One deputy, who had been fired, was acquitted of using excessive force against the handcuffed Beckman. Another former deputy was sentenced to six months in prison for using excessive force early in the confrontation. A third former deputy was sentenced to eight months in a federal prison for lying to a federal grand jury and the FBI.

After the criminal convictions were returned, the remaining defendants agreed to settle the case for $1 million. $110,387.90 was given to the surviving spouse, $220,775.82 was given to each parent, $400,000.00 for attorney fees and $48,060.46 for litigation expenses was given to Oklahoma City attorneys Ed Abel, Kelly S. Bishop and Nicholas J. Larby, who represented David Beckman, Christopher Beckman's brother and the personal representative of the estate, widow and parents. Oklahoma. County Commissioners said that the award would cause a minor increase in property taxes for the next three years. See: Beckman v. Correctional Healthcare Management of Oklahoma, Inc., U.S.D.C.-W.D.Okla., Case No. CIV-08-1076L

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Related legal case

Beckman v. Correctional Healthcare Management of Oklahoma, Inc.