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Texas Jury Awards $3 M in Houston Death Involving Excessive Force

A Harris County jury awarded $3 million to the Houston mother of a schizophrenic man who was shocked, hogtied and later died as Precinct 1 constable’s deputies took him into custody on a mental health warrant four years ago.

After a three-week trial, the jury concluded by a 10-2 vote that three of the four deputies named in Shirley Nagel’s lawsuit used unreasonable and excessive force as the deputies detained Nagel’s son, Joel Don Casey.

Casey’s death was ruled a homicide. An autopsy found the 52-year-old man died of psychotic delirium with physical restraint associated with heart disease.

He also suffered fractures to his seventh cervical vertebrae and to his thyroid cartilage.

After 4½ hours of deliberations the jury awarded $2.4 million to Nagel and $600,000 to her son’s estate, which she represents.

The verdict came almost one year after Harris County agreed to pay $1.7 million to two brothers in an unrelated case that accused sheriff’s deputies of violating civil rights and using excessive force. The county settled last year’s case with Sean and Erik Ibarra without admitting any liability or accepting fault.

The jury held Harris County 97 percent responsible for Casey’s death. Three of the four deputies named in the lawsuit — James R. Cavitt, Gregory Young and Demonte Gehring — were each held 1 percent responsible, while a fourth deputy, Daniel Thomas, was found not to be at fault.

A Harris County grand jury that reviewed the circumstances of Casey’s death declined to indict the four deputies in October 2005, court records show.

Casey, described as a highly functional schizophrenic, was confronted on his 52nd birthday by officers with the mental health warrant at his mother’s home in the 4100 block of Meyerwood after she called his psychiatrist’s office to report her son had been acting oddly and had stopped taking his medication.

When deputies arrived, Casey was sitting on the couch smoking a cigar with his cowboy boots propped up on the table and listening to Alan Jackson on the stereo. Casey stood up and put his hands behind his back as deputies instructed, but protested when one of the handcuffs hurt him, Spence said.

Deputies then used a Taser on him one time, causing Casey to fall facedown on the couch.

Another officer then zapped Casey with a 50,000-volt stun gun numerous times down his side.

Deputies then threw Casey down on the street in front of the police car and hogtied him before Cavitt dropped a knee on Casey’s neck and popped Casey’s head back.

Nagel’s attorneys said the incident was not a justifiable use of deadly force.

Jurors also concluded the county ratified the deputies’ use of excessive force and found the county’s failure to supervise and train the deputies was “a moving force” behind the violation of Casey’s constitutional rights.

If you or a family member has been injured because of the fault of someone else; by negligence, personal injury, slip and fall, car accident, medical malpractice, trucking accident, drunk driving, bad product, toxic injury etc then please contact the Fort Worth Texas Personal Injury Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.

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