Wife Sues Midland County for Wrongful Death Following Jail Incident

The wife of Jack Brian Marden, who died in Midland County Jail in February 2015, recently sued Midland County and several specific officers for wrongful death.

Sharyl Marden, representing the estate of her late husband, filed her complaint last Thursday in the United States District Court in Bay City. As defendants, she listed Midland County and a number of deputies, including Lt. Jeffrey Derocher, Capt. Richard Harnois, Brian Keidel, Joshua Michael Saylor, Richard Speich, and Bryan Kryzanowicz.

The 56-year-old Marden was arrested via warrant on February 4th and escorted to Midland County Jail. The warrant regarded an incident on January 19th at the Mardens’ home. Marden had taken large quantities of Valium and begun circling the home with a knife, asking the officers to fire shots at him. The officers Tased him and took him into custody. He was thereafter taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

After he was admitted to the jail on February 4th, deputies obtained medical records detailing Marden’s history of coronary artery disease, cardiac stents, and having suffered a brain aneurysm.

The lawsuit indicated that on February 11th, Marden was taken from his cell for an interview with Community Mental Health. A CMH employee told the deputies that Marden was upset and should be taken back to his cell. When Marden declined to reenter his cell, he was forced inside. CMH employees arranged for Marden to receive a mental health evaluation at a psychiatric hospital.

Once inside his cell, Marden became increasingly combative. He claimed that people were “trying to hurt him” and that the “French government was confiscating his money.” Concerned by the 205-pound Marden’s signs of “superhuman strength,” a deputy called for the jail’s emergency response team. The emergency team arrived and immediately pinned Marden to the ground. One deputy struck Marden on the head. He was given a “spit hood,” and he was put in a restraint chair. Sharyl Marden’s suit claims Jack Marden suffered asphyxiation as a result of the struggle.

Marden became unconscious during the incident. At the hospital, he was diagnosed with acute cardiac pulmonary arrest. He died on February 13th.

Sharyl Marden filed suit under Michigan’s Wrongful Death Act and under the Federal Constitution. Specifically, she argued the defendants violated several of Marden’s Constitutional rights, including his Fourth Amendment protection against excessive force and his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Ms. Marden is seeking over $75,000 in damages.

The lawsuit puts much of its focus on the use of a spit hood, which is a fabric placed over the head to prevent inmates from spitting on officers. The spit hood constricted Marden’s ability to breathe and was used despite Marden’s statements that he was having difficulty breathing. The lawsuit claims it was ultimately the spit hood that caused Marden to asphyxiate and suffer cardiac arrest.

The Midland County Sheriff’s office declined to comment on the incident due to pending litigation. The Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office reviewed the incident and found no wrongdoing, and no deputies involved were suspended.

Personal injury lawyer Kelly Neumann at the Neumann Law Group represents accident victims throughout Michigan from offices in Traverse City and Grand Rapids. Call us at (231) 463-0122 or at (616) 717-5666 for a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Michigan Court of Appeals Strengthens Rights of Medical Providers Under No-Fault Act, Michigan Injury Lawyer Blog, January 4, 2016.

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