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Denver settlement: Family of suffocated inmate getting $4.6M

FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2015, file frame from jailhouse surveillance video recorded at Denver’s Downtown Detention Center, released by the Denver Department of Safety via the law firm Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, 50 year-old homeless man Michael Marshall is wheeled out in a restraint chair by Denver sheriff's deputies during a psychotic episode in which a "spit mask" was placed over his face after he vomited. He choked on his vomit and suffocated. Attorneys representing Marshall’s family say they have reached a proposed $4.6 million settlement with the city in his death. (Denver Department of Safety/Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP via AP, File)
November 01, 2017 - 2:12 PM

DENVER - The family of a man who suffocated in jail as Colorado sheriff's deputies restrained him during a psychotic episode has reached a $4.6 million settlement that also requires changes at Denver's jails, attorneys said Wednesday.

Michael Marshall, 50, died two years ago after he was restrained in a prone position for several minutes by deputies because he became aggressive with another inmate and ignored commands. He choked on his own vomit, lost consciousness and died later at a hospital.

Marshall was homeless when he was arrested Nov. 7, 2015 on suspicion of trespassing and disturbing the peace and jailed, his relatives have said. He was restrained at the jail on Nov. 11 and died nine days later.

Attorneys for Marshall's family and the city of Denver said the settlement also requires the sheriff's department to add two mental health provider positions at its jail facilities and provide mental health coverage 24 hours a day, conduct training on mental illness for all deputies and change other procedures.

The agreement also requires the city to provide regular updates on its progress to Marshall's family and their attorneys, said Darold Killmer, one of the family's attorneys.

"If there would have been this type of mental health expertise at the jail the night that Michael Marshall was, he very well could be alive today," Kilmer said. "The number of lives this measure alone could save in the future is uncountable. But it's certain to make an impact."

Marshall's family members didn't want a lengthy trial but were committed to convincing the city to change Denver's approach to inmates with mental health issues, said Natalia Marshall, the man's niece. Marshall said her uncle's death is "still unbelievable" for her family.

"I want this never to happen again," she said.

City Attorney Kristin Bronson called Marshall's death "a tragic incident which has had a significant impact on his family, the community and the sheriff's department, including the deputies involved."

The settlement must be approved by the City Council, which plans to vote Nov. 13.

The city announced in April that two jail deputies and a supervisor would be disciplined in Marshall's death. Prosecutors have declined to file criminal charges, saying the deputies were not trying to hurt him.

Bronson said deciding to settle any case is difficult but an investigation into Marshall's death showed that a settlement was a better approach than a lengthy and expensive trial.

"It is our hope the settlement proposed to City Council will foster an environment of collective healing," Bronson said.

The settlement came after the city paid $6 million in 2014 to the family of Marvin Booker, a homeless street preacher who died after a struggle with jail deputies. That was among the largest awards Denver has paid.

Denver's former prosecutor also declined to file charges in that case.

In September, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann asked a grand jury to reinvestigate Booker's 2010 death based on new information his family raised in a federal civil rights lawsuit.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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