FDAR attorneys Angelica Jarmusz and Daniel Downey recently secured a unanimous jury verdict in favor of Brown County Officers in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The case arose when Brown County Corrections Officer Schadle discovered inmate Zachary Goldson dead in his cell, hanging from a bed sheet. Prior to his death, Goldson had intentionally swallowed potentially dangerous items requiring medical attention on three separate occasions. On October 4, 2013, Goldson was transported to the hospital to address his complaints of stomach pains from the swallowed items. Goldson was discharged from the hospital in the early morning hours of October 5, 2013 and attempted to escape custody, assaulting the transporting deputy in the process.

Officers from the Brown County Sheriff’s Office and Georgetown Police Department responded to the hospital and re-secured Goldson, who was then transported back to the jail. Deputy Dunning and CO Schadle, along with two other deputies, escorted Goldson to his cell. Deputy Dunning and CO Schadle entered the cell with Goldson to remove Goldson’s restraints and exited the cell approximately 96 seconds later.  Goldson was alone in his cell for nearly 24 minutes when CO Schadle looked into the cell and found Goldson hanging from the cell’s sprinkler system. Deputy Dunning and CO Schadle immediately began rendering aid and paramedics were called, but Goldson did not survive.

Following his death, Goldson’s estate brought a civil rights lawsuit against Deputy Dunning, CO Schadle, and several other Brown County Officers for a number of claims, including excessive force, deliberate indifference to medical needs, wrongful death, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff relied heavily upon the former-Brown County Coroner’s determination that Goldson’s death was a homicide by strangulation, despite the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, which performed the autopsy, finding Goldson’s death to be a suicide by hanging.

Judge Dlott initially granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant officers on all but the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, which Plaintiff dismissed so that she could appeal the rest of the claims. The Sixth Circuit reversed summary judgment on the excessive force claim against Deputy Dunning and CO Schadle and remanded the issue for trial. The trial therefore focused on whether Deputy Dunning and CO Schadle used excessive force against Goldson, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, in a manner that led to Goldson’s death on October 5, 2013.

After a one-week federal jury trial, the jury returned a unanimous decision in favor of the Defendant officers. The jury concluded that Deputy Dunning and CO Schadle did not use excessive force against Goldson, who died of suicide.

The attorneys at Fishel Downey Albrecht & Riepenhoff, LLP routinely defend law enforcement agencies and their employees in state and federal court. If you have any questions about this case or any other matter, please contact us at info@fisheldowney.com or call 614.221.1216.