The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have voted to pay $3.25 million to two mothers who filed lawsuits accusing deputies in county jails of staging their young son’s suicides to cover up fatal beatings. John Horton, 22, was found hanging in his cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, with injuries inconsistent for suicide. An autopsy revealed he died from internal hemorrhaging, and the injuries on his neck were not those typically caused by hanging suicide, yet official documents stated his cause of death to be “hanging and other undetermined factors.” Horton had been placed in solitary confinement after an altercation with at least one deputy, where he lived for a month with no human contact other than other deputies. He had originally been incarcerated for not showing up to a court-ordered drug program, and was suspected to be suffering from mental illness caused by hallucinogenic drug use. The lawsuit accuses certain deputies of beating him to death, and refusing him medical and psychological care.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said Horton’s death may have been an example of negligence inside an overcrowded and troubled jail. In a separate lawsuit, Earl Lee Johnson, 24, was found hanging by a bedsheet in his cell. He died in a hospital three weeks later. Johnson’s lawsuit makes similar allegations, accusing officers of beating him to the point of death, then staging a suicide to cover up their crime, “for no justified reason, and for no lawful justification.” Johnson had been arrested for a family dispute, was not convicted of any charges, and had been scheduled to be released from jail within a few months. When his family commissioned a private autopsy, the cause of death was found to be “blunt force trauma to the head, not strangulation.” The board agreed to pay Horton’s family a settlement of $2 million, and Johnson’s family a settlement of $1.25 million. No corrective action plans designed to prevent future incidents were announced by the board.
If you suspect the untimely death of a loved one to be a result of foul play, the law firm of Hodes Milman Liebeck can provide you with the assistance you need. Contact us today online at hmlm.com or call (949) 640-8222 for a complimentary case evaluation.