CHICAGO An inquest jury in Wisconsin on Monday recommended that seven employees at a Milwaukee County jail where a mentally ill man died in 2016 of dehydration be charged criminally, local media reported.
The jury found that there was probable cause that all seven staffers at the jail run by conservative Sheriff David Clarke committed a crime and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm must now decide whether to file charges, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper reported on Monday.
An inquest allows prosecutors to question witnesses under oath and present evidence to an advisory jury and is part of a process of deciding whether and against whom to file charges.
Chisolm and a spokesman for the sheriff’s office could not be reached for comment.
The district attorney’s office opened an inquest in Milwaukee County Circuit Court into the death of Terrill Thomas, 38, who was found unresponsive in the Milwaukee County Jail on April 24, 2016, after seven days without water, the paper reported. In September 2016, a medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.
During the final day of the inquest, Chisholm said evidence showed an “ongoing practice” of shutting off water to inmates both before and after Thomas’ death, the Journal Sentinel reported.
A series of corrections officers took the stand to say they had no idea that Thomas had been denied water for days, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Clarke, who as sheriff of Milwaukee County heads the agency responsible for the jail, in January defended conditions in the facility following Journal Sentinel reporting about medical positions going unfilled in the county’s jail system.
Clarke, who often appears on conservative news outlets and spoke at the Republican National Conventions on behalf of Donald Trump’s presidential bid, has said the media and Democrats lied about the jail.
(Reporting by Chris Kenning, editing by G Crosse)