Original article no longer available
Jan 2, 2006
VIRGINIA CITY – An Ennis man who tried to commit suicide while being held in the Madison County jail is suing the county, saying jailers denied him his medication and didn’t supervise him more closely.
Michael Oldham’s lawsuit alleges he was known to be depressed and suicidal when sheriff’s deputies arrested him in October 2003. The lawsuit said Oldham had fired 150 rounds in his house and told officers he wanted to kill himself and his family, but deputies did nothing to prevent his suicide attempt and denied him psychiatric medication they knew he was taking.
“The defendants placed the plaintiff into the usual prison coveralls and placed the plaintiff in the men’s common cell and wrongfully, negligently and unlawfully failed to take the extra precautions that plaintiff’s condition mandated,” according to the lawsuit, filed last week in District Court in Madison County.
Oldham was taking pain pills, antidepressants and sleeping pills at the time of his arrest, he said. However, the lawsuit alleges that deputies ignored his pleas to get his medicine. The lawsuit said deputies also failed to put him in a cell designed for inmates on suicide watch.
Oldham tore his underwear into two pieces and tied them together to be used to try to hang himself, he said. He was left comatose for about an hour before deputies responded, and was pronounced dead before being revived by deputies and taken to the Ruby Valley Hospital, the lawsuit alleges.
He was later admitted to the state mental hospital in Warm Springs and again given his medication. Oldham said the incident left him even worse off mentally, making him suffer bipolar disorder, homicidal tendencies and other symptoms that he didn’t have before.
He sued the county for emotional distress and violating his rights under the U.S. and Montana constitutions. Oldham asked for punitive and compensatory damages, plus attorney’s fees.Oldham is represented by Bozeman attorney Terry Schaplow, who has filed five other lawsuits over the jail conditions in recent years.Allen Chronister, a Helena attorney who has represented the county on behalf of its insurance carrier, filed a motion last week to have the case moved to federal court in Butte. Chronister said in court records that because Oldham is alleging his rights were violated under the U.S. Constitution, federal district court is the proper place for the case.
The case comes just days before county residents will vote on whether to fund a new $10 million jail, justice center and courthouse addition.
Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com
A service of the Associated Press(AP)