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$32,000 Settlement in Excessive Force Case Involving Mentally Ill Alabama Prisoner

A settlement was reached in a civil rights action alleging guards at Alabama’s Madison County Jail (MCJ) used excessive force on a mentally ill prisoner during a cell extraction.

Haraesheo Rice, 31, was well known to MCJ staff, who were aware he suffered from mental health problems that included schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. While in his cell on August 12, 2015, Rice was “in a distressed state because he was not receiving the proper medical attention and treatment he required,” the suit alleged.

He came to the attention of guards when a sprinkler in his cell broke and water began pouring out at a fast pace. Guards prepared for a cell extraction without first contacting medical personnel to determine the type of mental health crisis Rice was experiencing.

Dressed in “full combat gear and jail issued weapons and shields,” the guards entered the cell and began assaulting Rice “violently and throwing him around the cell,” the complaint alleged. He was subdued and placed in a restraint chair. Yet the beating did not end, as guards continued to strike Rice in his face, neck and head. The last thing Rice recalled before he was knocked unconscious was guard Sean Maloney hitting him in the face.

Rice was then taken to a hospital for treatment. Other prisoners contacted his family.

“Some of the inmates called my family members to tell them that they see Haraesheo and his head is so big it looks like it’s about to burst,” said Rice’s mother. “His eyes are bloodshot red like the blood vessels are bursted in them. But that’s the only information I [was] receiving and that’s from inmates.”

In August 2017, Rice, represented by Birmingham attorneys Samuel Fisher and Sidney Jackson, filed a civil rights action that alleged he did not receive proper medical care and was subjected to excessive force; the suit also claimed MCJ guards were not properly trained.

About five weeks after the complaint was filed, Rice was killed by officers from the Huntsville Police Department (HPD). The department said Rice forced his way into a home and fatally shot one man and wounded another; he was shot when he refused to drop his gun.

“Rice had 246 documented HPD involvements,” Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray stated.

Rice’s estate settled his civil rights suit against MCJ posthumously for $32,000 in May 2018. See: Rice v. Madison County, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ala.), Case No. 5:17-cv-01358-UJH-VEH. 

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Related legal case

Rice v. Madison County