Threat of lawsuit over Denver jail inmate death

Posted at 10:26 PM, May 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 00:26:06-04

The family of a Denver jail inmate who died after being restrained is taking steps to file a lawsuit. Their attorney filed a Notice of Claim against the City of Denver and Denver Health.

"So no there’s no closure, we’re still searching for closure, we’re still searching for justice," said Michael Marshall's niece Natalia Marshall.

In November, Michael Marshall was arrested for trespassing and disturbing the peace. Authorities say he was acting erratically while in custody resulting in an incident involving several deputies.

Marshall had a history of mental illness and schizophrenia but family members say he was not violent. His death was ruled a homicide but the district attorney did not file charges.

Surveillance video shows deputies holding down Marshall, then placing him in a restraint chair. He choked on his own vomit and had to be resuscitated. He was placed on life support and family members made the difficult decision to take him off the machines about a week later.

"We were lied to from the very beginning, from the beginning we were lied to. We didn't know what to do. We were lost," said Natalia Marshall.

The Notice of Claim alleges Michael Marshall died due to "grossly excessive physical force... and the deliberate indifference of Denver Health Medical Center nurses and Denver Sheriffs to his serious and obvious medical needs."

Attorney Mari Newman points to a pattern including the 2010 case where inmate Marvin Booker died. In that case a jury found deputies used excessive force after deputies shocked him with a Taser while handcuffed then put him in a sleeper hold as they lay on top of him.

She alleges critical moments were lost when Michael Marshall needed medical attention.

"The deputies used an outrageous amount of force against this mentally ill man who was suffering a health crisis," said Newman.

According to the coroner's report Michael Marshall's "cause of death was determined to be complications of positional asphyxia, to include aspiration pneumonia, due to being physically restrained by law enforcement during an acute psychotic episode."