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Second new wrongful death trial granted by appeals court

When the plaintiff and the defendant turn evidence over to one another, it is called the discovery phase. It doesn't matter if the plaintiff or defendant think that a piece of evidence is not important, all evidence must be turned over to the other side during discovery. When that does not occur, a new trial can be ordered by an appeals court.

That is what happened in a wrongful death case involving the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOT). In 2010, a man was killed in the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution when corrections officers performed a "cell extraction." This happens when an inmate refuses an order by corrections officers to prepare to leave his cell. The 33-year-old man in this case was being held in solitary confinement. He had an argument with an officer and splashed some sort of liquid through the small slot in his cell door. That was when a prison commander decided to remove the man forcibly from his cell.

The cell extraction was videotaped and it showed five officers going into the cell. He is shackled and then placed face down on the cell floor. He can be heard on the tape telling the officers that he can't breathe. Over the next 30 minutes, the man tells officers at least 12 times that he cannot breathe.

Out in the recreation yard, one officer is seen using a taser shield to push down on the man's back. When the shield is later removed, the guards realize that there is something wrong. By the time a nurse arrives, checks his pulse and starts CPR, the man is dead.

The man's mother filed the original wrongful death lawsuit against the prison, the guards and the warden. Her attorneys argued that the officers had violated her son's civil rights and used excessive force.

The reason for the new trials is that a resignation letter from one of the guards that contained information about the man's death was not given to the plaintiffs during discovery. The appeals court has twice reversed the trial judge's rulings that the leaving the letter out of discovery was not enough for a new trial. As of this time, a new date hasn't been set for the new trial.

Have you lost a loved one because of the reckless or negligent acts of another? An attorney can explain your legal options.

Source: Nashville Scene, "Case of Wrongful Death at Riverbend Prison Gets New Trial," Amanda Haggard, April 09, 2018

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