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Cook County, Illinois to Pay $1.7 Million for Former Marine’s Suicide in Jail

by Douglas Ankney

In April 2019, the Cook County Board of Commissioners agreed to pay $1.7 million to settle a lawsuit over the death of Devin Lynch, a Marine Corps veteran and active reservist, while he was held at the Cook County Jail.

Lynch, 26, was booked into the facility in February 2016 after being arrested on a domestic-related sexual assault.

During his medical evaluation at intake, jail officials documented Lynch’s depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Most notably, they also documented his two suicide attempts – the most recent being the previous day.

Lynch was assigned to a “psych tier,” where, pursuant to a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010, jail staff are to ensure that all prisoners are closely monitored by guards specially trained to observe signs that a prisoner is about to harm himself. Two guards are to be assigned to a psych tier in order to conduct security checks every 30 minutes; they are supposed to have a special “cut-down tool” in case they find a prisoner hanging.

However, Darrell Maloy was the only guard assigned to the psych tier on March 22, 2016. He had received no specialized training to work that post, nor was he provided with a cut-down tool. Between 4:30 and 5 p.m., Lynch was seen on security video speaking to his family on the phone. He then enters the bathroom while crying, checks the door to the utility closet and returns to the phone. Between 5:35 and 6:09 p.m., Lynch obtains sheets from his bed and takes them into the bathroom. Maloy, instead of making his rounds every 30 minutes, makes one round at 7:21 p.m. where – on Lynch’s request – he leaves the utility closet unlocked.

At 8:46 p.m., a sheet can be seen tied around Lynch’s neck with other sheets clearly visible under his jail uniform as he enters the utility closet. Maloy doesn’t find Lynch hanging in the closet until an hour later. Because he doesn’t have a cut-down tool, several more minutes pass before the sheet around Lynch’s neck is removed.

Charlene Bigelow, Lynch’s mother, filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that Maloy and Sheriff Thomas Dart, along with Cook County, failed to protect her son. Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Cara Smith denied the jail was at fault, saying the phone calls with his family had caused Lynch to kill himself. The $1.7 million settlement was reached a year after the wrongful death suit was filed. See: Bigelow v. Dart, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ill.), Case No. 1:18-cv-02055. 

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Additional source: chicagosuntimes.com

Related legal case

Bigelow v. Dart