Court: Jail workers can be sued in Detroit inmate death

Ed White
Associated Press

Detroit — A jury should decide whether Wayne County jail employees could have prevented the death of a man who was killed after a mentally ill inmate was placed in his cell, an appeals court said.

The court last week affirmed a decision by a Detroit federal judge, who said governmental immunity doesn’t apply in a lawsuit by Jeff Horvath’s estate. He was in jail for more than a week in 2011 because he couldn’t afford to post bond in a misdemeanor case.

Horvath was moved to another cell because of a toilet problem and was eventually joined by Brandon Gillespie. Horvath, 55, was beaten and stabbed to death. Another inmate said he heard someone yelling, “Let me out.”

Gillespie told jail staff he had a history of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and wasn’t taking medication at the time, according to a summary of the incident. Gillespie, now 26, pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and is serving at least 30 years in prison.

Horvath’s family said the Dearborn man had a right to be protected. The lawsuit names Wayne County, a sheriff’s deputy, a nurse and a social worker. Deputy Andre Stinson said he didn’t hear Horvath’s pleas for help.

“Stinson certainly raises doubts as to what he could hear and see at the time of the attack. … But such arguments are appropriately reserved for a jury,” the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.