Felony charges considered in Milwaukee County Jail inmate's death

Inmate died of dehydration
Posted at 10:56 AM, Mar 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-09 23:28:58-05

MILWAUKEE (AP) — New court documents show Milwaukee County prosecutors are considering felony charges against jail staff on duty when an inmate died of dehydration.

Thirty-eight-year-old Terrill Thomas was incarcerated at the downtown Milwaukee jail when he died in April 2016. Other inmates told investigators the water was shut off to Thomas' cell after he had flooded a previous cell.

The Journal Sentinel reports a motion filed this week is the first indication from prosecutors that felony abuse or neglect charges are under consideration. Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley wrote in the motion that the law must strictly require jailors to safeguard lives in their care and that "stupidity, thoughtlessness, indifference and incompetence" are not valid legal defenses.

Prosecutors are asking for an inquest in which a jury would hear testimony and make a recommendation, which would only be advisory.

Thomas was being held in solitary confinement when he died. Guards say they checked on him every half hour per protocol. They reported hearing a noise or movement every time they passed until their last check.

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