Tuesday, October 14, 2014
"This is about a man who simply wanted his shoes..."
...said Rev. Terrance Hughes after receiving news that a jury had awarded $4.65 million to the family of his friend, Marvin Booker, who died in 2010 while in a Denver jail. Booker was a 56-year-old homeless street preacher who weighed about 135 pounds. He reportedly suffered a heart attack while restrained by five deputies during a dispute over his shoes. His family claimed the deputies used excessive force and filed a federal civil rights claim against them, the city, and the county.
The AP reports:
Inmates told investigators that the struggle began when he was ordered to sit down in the jail’s booking area but instead moved to collect his shoes, which he had taken off for comfort.
Booker, who was arrested on an outstanding warrant for drug possession, was cursing and refusing to follow orders, according to the deputies’ account. He was restrained by deputies who got on top of him, placed him in a sleeper hold, handcuffed him and shocked him with a stun gun.
Attorneys representing the family of Booker said deputies stunned him for too long and should have backed down when Booker said he was struggling to breathe. In his closing arguments, Killmer said the “dogpile” of deputies was a zealous overreaction.
Denver’s medical examiner said Booker died of cardiorespiratory arrest during restraint, and ruled his death a homicide. The report listed other factors in his death, including emphysema, an enlarged heart and recent cocaine use.
Rice said Booker’s heart problems caused his death, and a healthier inmate would have survived the encounter.
As in Baltimore and New York, some are calling for a federal investigation into the use of force by Denver law enforcement:
The three-week trial came amid calls for a federal investigation of the department over other high-profile abuse cases that prompted the sheriff’s department to make sweeping reforms. Former sheriff Gary Wilson resigned in July as the city agreed to pay $3.3m to settle another federal jail-abuse lawsuit by a former inmate over a beating. It was the largest payout in city history to settle a civil rights case.