Former inmate wins $22 million over 'forgotten' solitary confinement

Party Rooster

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Apr 27, 2005
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Former inmate wins $22 million over 'forgotten' solitary confinement

By Bill Mears, CNN
updated 12:26 PM EST, Wed January 25, 2012

(CNN) -- A New Mexico man held in solitary confinement in a county prison for nearly two years without ever being prosecuted has won a $22 million jury award for violation of his constitutional rights, officials said.

It is one of the largest federal civil rights settlements in history involving an inmate. Stephen Slevin alleged he was essentially forgotten while in custody.

"This has never been about the money," Slevin said in a halting voice outside the federal courthouse in Santa Fe, just after the jury's decision.

He suffers from post-traumatic stress from what he called physical and mental mistreatment by corrections officials in Dona Ana County, in the southern part of the state.

"We made a statement about what happened to me," he said of the verdict.

Slevin, 58, was arrested in August 2005 and charged with driving while intoxicated and receiving a stolen vehicle near Las Cruces. His lawyers said the prison segregated him because he had a lifelong history of mental illness.

Albuquerque civil rights attorney Matthew Coyte said his client then began to deteriorate while in isolation.

"They threw him in solitary and then ignored him," said Coyte. "He disappeared into delirium, and his mental illness was made worse by being isolated from human contact and a lack of medical care."

Slevin's lawsuit alleged he became malnourished, lost significant weight, developed bedsores, fungus and dental problems and was not aware of his situation or surroundings.

He was transferred to another state facility for two weeks, where he was given a psychiatric evaluation and then sent back to the Dona Ana County Detention Center, where he was again placed in solitary confinement. Coyte said Slevin did receive a brief competency hearing a year into his imprisonment, but the case against the man never proceeded.

After 22 months as a pre-trial detainee, Slevin was released and the charges dismissed. He then filed suit, claiming his rights of due process were violated since he was not given a hearing before being placed in solitary confinement.

Photos taken before and after his confinement show dramatic appearance changes. The plaintiff said things were so bad he was forced to pull his own tooth while in custody, and that his pleas for help were dismissed.

In pre-trial motions, the county denied "that there was lack of medical care. For most of the other allegations, officials either denied them or said they were "without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief" of the veracity of the claims.

The defendants also said Slevin waited too late to file his suit, and that as government employees, county officials deserved immunity from liability, believing they acted in good faith as to Slevin's treatment in custody.

The county had refused any public comment before the trial. There was no immediate reaction to the verdict from county officials.

Slevin's legal team said the county in recent days had offered to settle the case for $2 million, just before the jury went to consider a verdict and award.

Coyte told CNN he hopes Slevin's court victory will send a message throughout the state for more humane treatment of inmates, especially those with mental or physical issues.

Slevin continues to have serious medical issues, and is fighting lung cancer, his lawyer said.

The case is Slevin v. Board of County Commissioners of Dona Ana County (1:08-cv-01185).
http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/25/justice/inmate-settlement/index.html
 

fletcher

Darkness always says hello.
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Feb 20, 2006
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He should change his name to Papillon.
 

gleet

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Jul 24, 2005
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"This has never been about the money," Slevin said in a halting voice outside the federal courthouse in Santa Fe, just after the jury's decision.
Then we don't have to pay you?

Oh no, gimme that check.
 

Neon

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These are the types of cases that monster payouts were meant for. What a fucking nightmare.
 

Josh_R

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Jan 29, 2005
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#7
A New Mexico man held in solitary confinement in a county prison for nearly two years without ever being prosecuted
I guess they didn't even need the NDAA to hold American citizens indefinitely without a trial...:icon_cool
 

lajikal

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Good for her.
 

NuttyJim

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Feb 18, 2006
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What about the Constitution Maaaaan!
 

Your_Moms_Box

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Dec 20, 2004
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#10
I refuse to comment on this until kirk tells me what I am supposed to think.

Also, the WM3 did over 20 years. where is their pile o cash?



Sent from my rooted Liquid Thunderbolt with my thumbs.
 

whiskeyguy

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Stephen Slevin alleged he was essentially forgotten while in custody.
Fuck him, with a name like that he deserved it.

That said, this would be infuriating if it happened to a person with a normal name. You can't hold someone that long without giving them a trial (before Obama). It sucks the local taxpayers have to pay this settlement (probably through increased liability insurance rates), but he deserves compensation. Someone high up needs to be fired over this also.
 

Josh_R

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Jan 29, 2005
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#12
I refuse to comment on this until kirk tells me what I am supposed to think.

Also, the WM3 did over 20 years. where is their pile o cash?



Sent from my rooted Liquid Thunderbolt with my thumbs.
They pled guilty; until they are cleared of the charges, they aren't getting a dime.
 
Dec 8, 2004
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#14


Traumatic: Stephen Slevin, looked remarkably different in August, 2005, at the time of his arrest for drunken driving



Ordeal: Stephen Slevin, pictured near the time of his release, was held in solitary confinement for two years and forced to pull out his own tooth



Outside court: Stephen Slevin said it was never about the money for him but more about making a statement that this was not acceptable treatment
 
Jan 9, 2006
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Delmar, NY
#15
They pled guilty; until they are cleared of the charges, they aren't getting a dime.
Yup, and fear of a lawsuit is the only reason they were allowed to plea guilty in the manner that they did. It's not about justice or truth, it's just about saving money. That's a great system. Either they're actually guilty and the state let three child killers free, or they're not and they held three innocent men for 18 years. They shouldn't be able to have it both ways, but they found a way to do it, only for money.
 

Neon

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They pled guilty; until they are cleared of the charges, they aren't getting a dime.
Yup, and fear of a lawsuit is the only reason they were allowed to plea guilty in the manner that they did. It's not about justice or truth, it's just about saving money. That's a great system. Either they're actually guilty and the state let three child killers free, or they're not and they held three innocent men for 18 years. They shouldn't be able to have it both ways, but they found a way to do it, only for money.
I simply don't understand how they can't just sue anyway. Don't they have footage of the prosecutor essentially admitting that they only did it so they couldn't sue? This story makes me so angry. If that was me, I'd dedicate the rest of my life to ruining everyone who had anything to do with that. I was so impressed that the guy O&A had on didn't have that mentality. Good for him for not just sinking into a dark pit of revenge, which is what I totally see myself doing.
 

Stig

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Jul 26, 2005
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#17
Fuck him, with a name like that he deserved it.

That said, this would be infuriating if it happened to a person with a normal name. You can't hold someone that long without giving them a trial (before Obama). It sucks the local taxpayers have to pay this settlement (probably through increased liability insurance rates), but he deserves compensation. Someone high up needs to be fired over this also.
The good ol' State Employees Union will fight that tooth and nail.
 
Jan 9, 2006
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Delmar, NY
#18
I simply don't understand how they can't just sue anyway. Don't they have footage of the prosecutor essentially admitting that they only did it so they couldn't sue? This story makes me so angry. If that was me, I'd dedicate the rest of my life to ruining everyone who had anything to do with that. I was so impressed that the guy O&A had on didn't have that mentality. Good for him for not just sinking into a dark pit of revenge, which is what I totally see myself doing.
The thing is, they are likely so happy to be free that they don't want to waste any more time and energy on this. They could sue if they wanted to try, but when you've had almost 20 years of your life taken away, you probably just want to live and appreciate the things in life that we all take for granted.
 

Danesy

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Jun 5, 2006
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The thing is, they are likely so happy to be free that they don't want to waste any more time and energy on this. They could sue if they wanted to try, but when you've had almost 20 years of your life taken away, you probably just want to live and appreciate the things in life that we all take for granted.
I wouldn't say they don't want to spend any more time on it. They have their investigators still working on it. As Damien said when they were released, it's much easier to fight this when you're free.