On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that a civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of Elliott Williams can go forward.
Williams’ family is filing a lawsuit against Tulsa County for the improper treatment Elliott received while in prison.
Williams, who had a history of mental illness, was arrested in October 2011 when the staff at a Marriott hotel called the police after he appeared to have a nervous breakdown in the lobby. Williams was not given proper mental health treatment, despite telling police he was suicidal. He was arrested and locked in jail instead without ever receiving a formal charge.
Williams sustained injuries during his arrest but did not receive any treatment for them. Daniel Smolen, Williams family attorney, described the conditions Elliott endured as follows:
‘This guy went almost six days and never got taken to the hospital with a broken neck. They’re throwing food at him and making fun of him in the cell while he’s going through a horrific death. You wouldn’t do that to an animal or any living thing.’
Despite Williams’ cries of pain, staff at the jail did nothing except toss food at him and watch him die on camera. Williams died on his sixth day in prison.
U.S. District Judge John Dowdell said about his decision to allow the lawsuit against the county to continue:
‘A reasonable jury could find that Mr. Williams’ needs were obvious to any layperson.’
‘They could also find that the medical unit-wide attitude of inhumanity and indifference shown to him, which resulted in the delay and denial of medical care in the face of his symptoms that were obviously indicative of a serious medical condition or medical emergency, amounted to deliberate indifference.’
In a 55-page ruling, Judge Dowdell determines that jail videos are allowable to be used in the case as evidence. Dowdell also condemns the jail staff for their blatant negligence.
‘A significant number of jail staff were aware that Mr. Williams did not walk, stand, sit up, eat, or drink on his own for days.’
Attorney Dan Smolen is not surprised by Dowel’s ruling due to the evidence collected against the jail.
‘It’s rare that you have a set of facts that would dictate such a an emotional response. … It’s one of the very few cases that shows what I would consider to be complete inhumanity.’
The video below, courtesy of the New York Daily News, shows the conditions Williams faced while in prison.
Featured image is a screenshot from the video.