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Milwaukee is paying nearly $7M to settle jail death lawsuit

MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee County paid almost $7 million for the settlement of a lawsuit by the family of a man whose dehydration death in the prison was described by his lawyers as torture.

Lawyers for the 38-year-old Terrill Thomas, the settlement of one of the largest ever in Wisconsin for a prison of death. Tuesday was the first time that she publicly announced the settlement, but it was completed in March. The lawsuit was dismissed earlier this month.

“The size of the settlement I believe, an expression of the enormous pain and suffering that Mr. Thomas endured for days,” said James End, a Milwaukee lawyer who represented Thomas’ family.

The county’s lawyer, Margaret Daun, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc., a Florida-based company that was in charge of the detainee care at the time of Thomas’ death, was working on a statement in reaction to the settlement. The company was also named in the lawsuit .

Thomas’ family has said he had a nervous breakdown when the police arrested him on April 14, 2016, for shooting a man in the front of the home of his parents, and later the firing of a gun in a casino.

In prison, Thomas had the water to his cell was closed as punishment, because he had flooded the previous cell by the filling of a mattress in the toilet. The water was never turned back on and he died a week later. He lost 34 pounds (15.5 kg), or 10 percent of its body weight during the week, he was deprived of water, according to the lawsuit.

Erik Heipt, a Seattle-based lawyer who also represented Thomas’ family, said the province would have eventually to pay more in a lawsuit.

“What happened to him was a form of torture,” Heipt. “This kind of atrocity should never happen in an American prison. There is no excuse for it.”

Heipt said the settlement money will be divided among Thomas’ six children, including four minors.

Milwaukee prosecutors filed criminal charges against three prison staff members who were involved in the conclusion of Thomas’ water, or who lied to the police during the subsequent investigation.

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