WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Defendants in the wrongful death lawsuit of Anthony “Tony” Mitchell admit the inmate was tased while in custody, but deny he was ever intentionally exposed to a frigid environment.
In response to an amended complaint, lawyers for the defendants admit Mitchell was tased, handcuffed and dragged across the jail booking area with stun gun prongs still in him on Jan. 15. The response states Mitchell “had to be dragged because he was combative and refused to walk.”
In the same court filing submitted on Monday, lawyers for the sheriff’s office denied claims that corrections officers intentionally exposed Mitchell to a frigid environment by using the prison’s climate control system to blow cold air into his cell.
The amended lawsuit filed by Mitchell’s estate alleged frigid air, intentionally blown into Mitchell’s cell, caused “Mitchell, already stressed by dehydration from receiving no water for over two days, to become severely hypothermic overnight and in the morning hours” of Jan. 26.
Anthony Mitchell was carried by uniformed personnel out of the jail and placed into the backseat of a patrol vehicle to be taken to a hospital the morning of Jan. 26 around 8:54 p.m. He was pronounced dead at Walker Baptist Hospital at 1:15 p.m.
The wrongful death lawsuit includes quotes from Mitchell’s medical records written by an emergency room doctor after Mitchell was transported to the hospital.
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“I am not sure what circumstances the patient was held in incarceration, but it is difficult to understand a rectal temperature of 72° F 22° centigrade while someone is incarcerated in jail,” the doctor’s notes said, according to the federal lawsuit. “The cause of his hypothermia is not clear. It is possible he had an underlying medical condition resulting in hypothermia. I do not know if he could have been exposed to a cold environment. I do believe that hypothermia was the ultimate cause of his death.”
Attorneys for Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith have submitted a motion to dismiss the sheriff from the wrongful death suit.
“It is well-established that Sheriff Smith is a State Constitutional Officer,” attorney Jamie Helen Kidd Frawley wrote in the motion. “He is accordingly entitled to absolute immunity from all claims for damages brought against him in his official capacity pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
The defendants’ lawyer’s full response to the amended complaint can be read below: