$2M deal reached in hot cell death
New York — The city on Friday reached a $2.25 million settlement with the mother of a mentally ill, homeless former U.S. Marine who died earlier this year in a 101-degree jail cell, the comptroller said.
Jerome Murdough, 56, died in a mental observation unit on Rikers Island jail. Officials said he wasn’t checked on for at least four hours. He was found slumped at the foot of his bed with a pool of vomit and blood on the floor on Feb. 15 with an internal body temperature of 103 degrees.
His mother, Alma, filed initial papers to sue the city for $25 million over her son’s death.
“Following a thorough review of the claim and facts of this case, my office has reached a settlement with the estate of Jerome Murdough,” City Comptroller Scott Stringer said. “A mother lost a son, the city lost a citizen. It is my hope that this settlement provides some small measure of closure for the family of Mr. Murdough. The expedited resolution of this case is in the best interest of all parties.”
“On behalf of the city, I am sorry for your loss,” Stringer told Alma Murdough.
“This is a very awful thing I’m going through,” she said softly. “I’m sorry I cannot say any more.”
The city did not admit liability as part of the settlement.
The Associated Press was first to report on suspicions of Murdough’s death. He died a week after he was sent to Rikers on a misdemeanor trespassing arrest after being unable to pay $2,500 bail. An official, speaking to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t permitted to discuss the case, said at the time Murdough “basically baked to death.”
He had suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, according to his family, and was on psychotropic drugs that experts say make people on them more sensitive to heat.
The medical examiner ruled the death was caused by hyperthermia due to environmental exposure to heat. His medication also played a role. The death was ruled accidental.
Murdough’s death and the death of another mentally ill inmate who died after sexually mutilating himself while locked alone for seven days in a Rikers cell last fall have prompted calls for jail reform. City Council hearings were convened to examine violent conditions at the jail complex and treatment of mentally ill inmates.
“We need fundamental, real reform at Rikers Island,” Stringer said.
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