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Michigan Jail Subject of Wrongful Death Lawsuit and PLN Censorship Suit

The family of a prisoner who died from drug withdrawal symptoms at Michigan’s Macomb County Jail (MCJ) filed a lawsuit against the facility and its private medical contractor, Correct Care Solutions, in March 2015.

On June 11, 2014, David Stojcevski, 32, was ordered by a court to serve 30 days for failing to pay a $772 traffic ticket. Stojcevski, a drug addict, was taking methadone, Xanax and Klonopin to treat his addiction when he was booked into MCJ. He was denied access to those medications and went into withdrawal, which caused him to act irrationally.

His symptoms were improperly diagnosed and he was placed naked in an observation cell for prisoners with mental health problems. The cell was lit 24/7 and monitored by a video camera. Another prisoner was in the cell with Stojcevski, and they eventually began fighting.

After the other prisoner was removed, Stojcevski could be seen on video reenacting the fight, indicating he was hallucinating. Over the 17 days of his imprisonment at MCJ, Stojcevski lost 50 pounds and suffered convulsions.

During the last two days of his life he laid on the floor of his cell and shook in clear distress, yet no jail staff checked on his condition or provided assistance until it was too late. Shortly after being taken to a hospital, Stojcevski died on June 27, 2014; an autopsy concluded his cause of death was due to “acute withdrawal from chronic benzodiazepine, methadone and opiate medications.”

“They know their son had made some mistakes in judgment over the years but ... never in their wildest imaginations did they ever think that their son would be carried out essentially in a body bag,” said attorney Robert D. Ihrie, who represents Stojcevski’s family and was quoted by NBC News.

The lawsuit, filed by Stojcevski’s brother, Vladimir, alleges MCJ staff allowed Stojcevski to endure an “excruciatingly painful and slow” death by withdrawal. Both county officials and Correct Care Solutions were named as defendants. The county, however, argued the suit “lacks legal merit” and said it would not settle.

On November 9, 2015, the district court dismissed around 30 defendants in the wrongful death suit and severed Vladimir’s claims, which were unrelated to his brother’s death. The case remains pending with a jury trial set for January 2018. See: Stojcevski v. County of Macomb, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Mich.), Case No. 4:15-cv-11019-LVP-DRG.

In September 2016, following an investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that it had found no criminal wrongdoing in connection with Stojcevski’s death.

“[A]fter a thorough review of all the facts related to this case, we have determined that the evidence does not support a federal criminal civil rights prosecution,” said spokeswoman Gina Balaya.

The ACLU of Michigan had asked the Department of Justice to review Stojcevski’s death as well as “systemic problems with the jail’s treatment of mentally ill or chronically dependent inmates and pay-or-stay [jail] schemes,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Macomb County Jail is also the subject of a censorship suit filed by PLN, based on its postcard-only policy. The jail changed its mail policy after PLN sued, and the district court entered a permanent injunction on June 17, 2016. Pursuant to that injunction, jail officials agreed they “shall not have nor implement in the future, blanket bans on books, magazines, newspapers, or other publications sent directly from any Publisher to prisoners at the Jail.” See: Prison Legal News v. Wickersham, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Mich.), Case No. 2:15-cv-12350-AC-MJH.

Sources: www.nbcnews.com, www.vox.com, www.reason.com, Detroit Free Press

Related legal cases

Prison Legal News v. Wickersham

Stojcevski v. County of Macomb


 

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