Officials give conflicting testimonies in Milwaukee County inmate death inquest

Thomas died last year of dehydration in his cell
Posted at 5:50 PM, Apr 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-25 19:33:43-04

The commander at the Milwaukee County Jail took the stand Tuesday in an inquest looking into the death of an inmate last year.

The Medical Examiner's Office confirmed that Terrill Thomas, 38, died of dehydration while in solitary confinement. He was booked into jail on shooting charges last April.

Court testimony revealed Thomas went seven days without water before he died, after an officer at the jail turned off the water to Thomas' cell.

The inquest on Tuesday focused heavily on surveillance video that reportedly showed that correctional officer accessing the water closet before Thomas was placed in his cell.

Two captains testified that they saw this on surveillance video. One of them is George Gold who works at the Milwaukee County Jail currently.

He testified that he also saw officers remove Thomas' mattress and throw it onto a lower level. Thomas did not have a mattress in his cell the entire time.

Gold testified that he reported what he saw on the video within 48 hours of Thomas' death, to his commander, Major Nancy Evans.

He tells the assistant district attorney that when he told his commander, he received "no directive" on what to do next.

Evans also testified Tuesday, telling a completely different story. She says Gold never her told her any of his findings on the video, reporting there was nothing there.

The district attorney's office spent almost two hours questioning Evans, hammering her on the details.

They then played an audio recording Evans' interview with investigators last year, where she accused Gold of lying to law enforcement.

"Capt. Gold is angry with me," she said to investigators. "He has an IA case, now they want to make me the bad guy. I have nothing to hide in this. I don't condone any of his (sic) actions at all."

The surveillance video at the center of all of this, that the district attorney calls a crucial piece of evidence, was never archived.

According to Evans, the system rewrites over video after 90 days. Only the last few days of Thomas' time in the jail was saved. The day when an officer reportedly turned off the water was not saved on video.

The assistant district attorney accused Evans of intentionally hiding this evidence so it wouldn't look bad for the sheriff's office. She responded that that wasn't true.

Court testimony also revealed that Thomas was kept in his cell 24 hours a day for an entire week, with no water and no mattress. An expert in correctional administration called the treatment of Thomas during testimony as "torture."

"It's unconscionable, it's inhumane, it feels punitive," said Martin Horn, who has worked as a correctional administrator for decades. "I don't see any what they refer to as any penological reason to keep a person in these conditions for this period of time."

He said even in solitary confinement, inmates should receive no less than one hour a day outside of their cell.

The district attorney also spent a majority of the day focusing on Milwaukee County Jail procedure, that states an inmate should have 24 hour access to a working toilet and hot and cold water.

There is no jail procedure in place for shutting off an inmate's water. 

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