Family sues over death of jail inmate

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Was it an unfortunate accident or was he abused?

The family of a man who died at the Lawrence County jail in October 2004 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county.

The lawsuit, filed by the family of Carl E. Clutters April 5 in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, names Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton and several members of his staff as well as all three Lawrence County Commissioners as defendants.

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It seeks compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, exemplary damages greater than $75,000 as well as attorney fees and other costs and any other relief the court would deem justifiable.

On Oct. 2, Clutters suffered injuries at the jail and was taken first to Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Russell, Ky., and then Lifeflighted to St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, W.Va., where he was pronounced dead.

Sexton said at that time Clutters was injured when he fell on his way back from the shower at the jail and an initial autopsy report did not indicate any misconduct.

Keith Karr, attorney for Clutters' wife, Paula, declined to give specifics of

the alleged abuse mentioned in the lawsuit, but said the action by the family against local officials was warranted.

"I don't want to try the case in the media, but based on the information obtained in our investigation, the lawsuit was filed,"

Karr said.

A phone call to the Clutters residence was not immediately returned.

According to the lawsuit, Clutters was sentenced to 60 days in jail after pleading no contest to driving under the influence of alcohol. At the time of his confinement to prison, his family alleges that Clutters was taking OxyContin for pain stemming from an all-terrain vehicle accident.

At some point, the suit alleges that corrections officers determined Clutters "no longer needed his prescribed medication and denied him access to said medication."

When Clutters began having withdrawal symptoms from his medications, those officers "proceeded to use excessive force against him."

The suit alleges that Clutters was unarmed and did not pose a threat to officers.

Sexton said he had no comment on the lawsuit because it is pending litigation.

Clutters' death is being investigated by the Ohio Bureau for Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI). Sexton said it is his understanding that most of the information gathering had been completed but the information had not yet been compiled.

Bob Beasley, spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General's Office, which oversees the BCI, said he did not have any information on the matter when he was contacted Thursday afternoon.