Neglected prisoner locked away for nearly two years settles case

Many readers might have heard of the egregious case involving a man in New Mexico who suffered 22 months in solitary confinement in a county jail without ever being prosecuted for any criminal charges.

In a sad and all-too-true tale of what sounds like a fictional account of one man’s horrific journey through the criminal justice system, the inmate — now 59 years old — was completely isolated from other prisoners and essentially forgotten about for nearly two years. The charges that were initially brought against him — drunk driving and receiving a stolen vehicle – were never followed through on by the prosecution, being eventually dismissed.

In a lawsuit filed on the man’s behalf, alleging violation of his constitutional rights, the complaint compares his physical condition at the time he was locked up and when he ultimately emerged from the jail in Dona Ana County. When he was booked, he was noted to be a “well nourished, physically healthy adult.” When his incarceration ended, he was gaunt, had a long beard and bed sores, and also had significant dental problems.

“They threw him in solitary and then ignored him,” said his defense attorney

In fact, the man spent his entire time in jail as pretrial detainee, with virtually no movement on his case during his time of incarceration. He did not receive a hearing before being placed in solitary confinement.

A federal jury hearing the case awarded the man a $22 million award last year for the state’s violation of his rights. In exchange for the man’s acceptance earlier this month of a reduced amount of $15.5 million, Dona Ana County commissioners agreed to forgo their appeal of that verdict.

Source: CNN Justice, “‘Forgotten’ inmate gets $15.5 million settlement from N.M. county,” Alan Duke, March 8, 2013