Son Sues State & County Over Father's Jail Cell Death
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 11, 2006
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS--Donald Winter died on New Year's Day, 2003 while in custody of Benton County police.
His cause of death: a painful infection related to a perforated ulcer that went untreated.
Winter's son, Darin, is suing the state of Arkansas and Benton County, claiming that they violated his 60-year-old father's constitutional rights by failing to provide the medical and mental health treatment he needed during his four-day incarceration.
During four days of testimony last week, U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Eisele heard how Winter, who had a history of mental illness, was arrested on December 28, 2002, on a charge of misdemeanor criminal trespassing after refusing to leave a neighbor's home. Police said Winter was forcibly taken to the ground and handcuffed when he resisted arrest.
After he was arrested, Winter -- apparently believing he was going to be executed -- refused to eat or drink, and began banging his head and arms on the walls and metal toilet in his cell.
Winter was examined at Bates Medical Center, where medical personnel described him as paranoid, psychotic, disruptive, and threatening; and at the Ozark Guidance Center, where a doctor said he was suffering from dehydration. However, neither facility was able to admit Winter, and a judge ordered that he be admitted to the State Hospital.
But, the State Hospital was full, so Winter was sent back to the jail, where his body was discovered four days later.
On Friday, a state medical examiner told Eisele that an autopsy revealed Winter had "at least 49" bruises on his body, along with numerous broken ribs, and that he likely died "less than 24 hours" after his ulcer was perforated.
Darin Winter, who also goes by Darin Winters, filed the suit in 2004, alleging discrimination based on his father's mental illness. The suit asks the state to improve conditions so that others can receive the mental health treatment they need in a timelier manner.
Mental health professionals reportedly testified that any reasonable fix would cost Arkansas taxpayers several millions of dollars each year.
Judge Eisele said he would likely rule on the case this week.
"Trial over state care for mentally ill inmates ends" (Arkansas News Bureau)
"Judge set to decide blame in death" (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
Editorial: "Mental Health Case Could Be Landmark" (Morning News)