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Verdicts & Settlements

City of Denver Settles in Prisoner Death Lawsuit

— November 10, 2017

The City of Denver agreed to pay $4.6 million to the relatives of a black inmate who was killed during a psychotic episode in 2015.

During a mental health breakdown inside a Denver jail, Michael Marshall was suffocated to death while being restrained by deputies.

The complaint and untimely demise of Marshall will lead to Denver revising its rulebook on the treatment of mentally ill inmates, said city attorney Kristin Bronson.

“After extensive evaluation of the facts and the possible outcomes of a costly trial, we made the difficult decision to propose a multifaceted settlement,” explained Bronson.

Bronson says the settlement was meant to preempt a lawsuit Marshall’s relatives were planning to file.

Michael’s brother, Rodney Marshall, said he was satisfied with the case’s outcome.

“If Michael could have been treated as a man in medical need, instead of like a criminal who was disobeying orders, he could still be alive today,” said Rodney Marshall.

The 50-year old inmate was, as reported by The New York Times, suffering from schizophrenia. After being sent to a Denver jail, he refused to take his medication.

Placed in a secure walkway under camera supervision, Marshall started pacing. Holding a blanket and walking from one end of the hall to another, the man knocked over a cart. He refused an order to sit down and stay calm, after which a jail worker physically intervened.

When Marshall began to break down and behaved erratically, deputies tried subduing him. During the confrontation, Marshall began choking on his own vomit – a medical emergency that went unnoticed in the struggle.


Marshall was sent to a hospital for treatment, but wasn’t responsive or in possession of his mental faculties. He stayed comatose for nine days before his family made the decision to disconnect him from life support.

Despite the officers showing an inability to deal with mentally unwell inmates, none of the deputies involved were disciplined or removed from their posts. However, two officials and a supervisor were suspended from duty following the incident.

Per the terms of the settlement, the sheriff’s department will hire two full-time mental health professionals. Denver will also provide additional training for deputies concerning the use of force in its jails.

“If there had been this type of mental health expertise at the jail the night that Michael Marshall was here, he very well could be alive today,” said attorney Darold Killmer. “The number of lives that this measure alone will save in the future is uncountable, but it’s certain to make an impact.”

The Times reports that the lawsuit isn’t the first of its kind – in 2014, a federal jury awarded $4.6 million to the family of a homeless black preacher who died in an altercation with deputies at a city jail.


Denver agrees to pay $4.6 million settlement to family of inmate killed in 2015 by sheriff’s deputies

New York Times

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