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$125,000 Settlement in Case of Michigan Man Who Killed Himself In Jail

by Christopher Zoukis

The estate of a man who committed suicide while in the custody of the Crawford County Sheriff's Department in Crawford County, Michigan, agreed to a settlement offer of $125,000 in response to a federal civil rights lawsuit against the county, the sheriff's department and several county employees.

     In May 2007, Cecil Gugin was arrested by Crawford sheriff's deputies and placed in an individual jail cell with a video camera. County employees were aware that Gugin had a history of suicidal tendencies as he had been placed on suicide watch by the sheriff's department once before, but he was left unmonitored for lengthy periods of time. On May 5, 2007, a jail employee allegedly gave Gugin a plastic bag and encouraged Gugin to kill himself. The next day, Gugin was found dead in his cell with the plastic bag over his head. Resuscitation efforts took a while to get underway because the staff was inadequately trained in CPR.

     On May 20, 2011, Sharon Gugin, representing Cecil's estate, filed a complaint in federal court against Crawford County, the sheriff's department, and county employees Kirk A. Wakefield, James Golnick, James Kelly, Timothy Stephan and Donald Steffes. She claimed that the defendants failed in their duty to follow county policies and procedures, failed to obtain Cecil's medical information, failed to place him on suicide watch, failed to monitor him properly, and failed to train staff on how to handle suicidal detainees and employ resuscitation techniques.

     On March 15, 2012, a settlement was agreed upon wherein the defendants would pay Gugin's attorney about $48,000 in costs and fees, with the remaining $76,761.50 designated for Cecil's brother, Howard Gugin, for a total of about $125,000. The settlement was approved and the case dismissed by Judge David M. Lawson on March 22.

See: Gugin v. Crawford County, et al., United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, 2:11-cv-12222-DML-PJK (Mar. 15, 2012)

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Related legal case

Gugin v. Crawford County, et al.