Pattis Presses For Answers In Lock-Up Death
by Paul Bass | Dec 13, 2013 3:34 pm
Posted to: Legal Writes
Unconvinced by results of a state investigation, an attorney for the estate of a woman who died in New Haven’s police station lock-up has moved to file a lawsuit.
“If you ask the fox if things are OK in the chicken coop, they’ll lick their chops and say, ‘Sure,’” said the attorney, Norm Pattis.
“We want to talk to the other witnesses and hear what they heard.”
The woman who died was named Monique Hayes. She was 44. Apparently strung out, she fought with cops on the evening of March 26, 2012, got arrested, went to the hospital, then landed in the police lock-up at 1 Union Ave. Marshals later found her dead in her cell. A fellow inmate said Hayes repeatedly yelled for help, yelled for medication, only to be taunted and otherwise ignored by the state judicial marshals who run the lock-up. The marshals denied it. The state medical examiner ruled Hayes’ death a suicide by hanging.
“I think they killed my wife,” Hayes’ widower, Lee Hayes, told the Independent after her death. He hired crusading attorney Pattis (pictured), who has filed a request with the state Office Of The Claims Commission for a waiver in order to file suit. That request is pending; state law prevents people from suing state government from injury unless they first win that waiver through a special process.
Pattis said he doesn’t know what really happened in the lock-up. A lawsuit would enable him through discovery to gather more testimony from witnesses, especially other inmates in the lock-up that night. He said he doesn’t trust an internal state investigation that simply quoted eight marshals denying the accusation that they ignored repeated cries for help.
Click here to read that state report, obtained this week by the Independent.
2 Deaths In 2 Years
Monique Hayes was the only prisoner to die in the 1 Union Ave. overnight lock-up in 2012, according to Rhonda Stearley-Hebert, spokeswoman for the state Judicial Branch, for whom the marshals work. One person has died there this year: a 34-year-old assistant Yale professor named Samuel See, on Nov. 24. That death sparked international news coverage and a protest march (pictured) this week through downtown streets. Protesters are demanding answers to crucial questions that officials have yet to release in that case: how exactly See died, how he ended up scuffling with police, and what specifically See had done to prompt police to arrest him for violating a protective court order.
Monique Hayes’ death, by contrast, prompted little news coverage, no public protests, even though specific allegations, unproved, emerged of mishandling of the case by the marshals.
“Ish” Brown made those accusations in an interview with the Independent published in 2012, a week after Hayes’ death. (“Ish” is her nickname; she preferred that she be identified without her legal first name. The original article did not name Hayes because her death had been ruled a suicide; her name is now being used because it appears on an official filing by her family.) Brown, who grew up with Hayes (named Monique Collins back then), was incarcerated in the 1 Union Ave. lock-up on an assault charge when marshals hauled Hayes in.
Hayes, who according to her husband had been struggling with substance abuse, had gotten into a fight on Whalley Avenue, then bit one cop who responded, injured another, and kicked out a window. Neither Brown nor Hayes’ husband subsequently criticized the police for arresting her. According to Hayes’ husband, she had been struggling with substance abuse, her life on a downward skid. She had also been hospitalized a week and a half earlier with meningitis.
The marshal doing intake at the Union Avenue lock-up that night marked Hayes down as drunk. He marked “no” on the other questions on the checklist, including whether she was suicidal or at risk of hurting herself.
And Hayes was struggling with the marshals bringing her into the lock-up, according to both Brown and the state Judicial Branch. Hayes could barely walk, according to Brown. It took a group of marshals to transport her, and later to get her onto a lower bunk in cell A-20.
“She threw up all over my shoes!” Brown quoted one marshal as saying. Another called the woman a “crackhead,” according to Brown.
“I’m not no motherfucking crackhead. Your mother’s a crackhead! Take them cuffs off me,” she quoted Hayes as responding.
“Pull my pants up,” Hayes requested.
The response: “You give us time, we’ll pull your pants up.”
“Can I get my medicine?” Hayes asked next, according to Brown.
As the night wore on, Hayes several times yelled for help, Brown said; she specifically asked for medicine. Brown said while Hayes screamed from her cell, Brown could hear the marshals talking in a lounge: “Do you see how big she is? Her ass crack is so big that you can go trout fishing in it!” “Her front is as big as her back.” “Her pussy probably had cottage cheese. The bitch threw up all over my shoes!”
After a final yell, then a plea for medicine, all was silent for around 10 minutes.
A Scramble To Revive
Then at 10:18 p.m., Marshal Michael Houston, working the second shift, passed by Hayes’ cell during a routine tour of the cell block. Newly obtained incident reports describe what happened next.
“I found arrestee Hayes with her jacket wrapped around her neck and the cell door,” Houston later wrote in an incident report, obtained by the Independent. “I then discontinued my tour and ran up front to get the cut down tool and to notify the other members of the shift that arrestee Hayes was attempting to commit suicide.”
At first, marshals couldn’t open the cell. “The coat was an obstruction for the cell door to slide open,” Marshal Joshua Cordero wrote in a separate incident report. “Lead Marshal [Joseph] Limitone ordered me to open the slide doors that divided A-block, to give the cameras a better view of what was happened.”
The marshals got inside, and got to work.
“After returning to cell A-20 I gave the cut down tool to [Marshal Joseph] Limitone at which time he began to cut arrestee Hayes’s jacket, as myself and [Marshal Joseph] Rubino attempted to lift arrestee to relieve the pressure around arrestee Hayes’s neck. Limitone and [Robert] Ortiz were finally able to get the cell door open and arrestee Hayes out of the cell. Then Marshal Kelly checked for a pulse and couldn’t find one so myself and JM [Scarpa] Scarpa went to retrieve the AED [automatic external defibrillator],” Marshal Houston wrote.
“Upon arriving back at cell A-20 I found Marshal Kelly performing rescue breathes (sic) and Marshal Ortiz performing chest compressions until the AED could be applied.”
Backup emergency medical technicians arrived. The crew worked for about 14 minutes to revive Hayes, to no avail. She was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she remained for four more days hooked to a breathing apparatus. She never regained consciousness. On that Friday night, her husband held her hand as the tubes were removed and the machine turned off.
8 Stories Line Up
After Brown’s accusations were published, the Judicial Branch conducted an internal inquiry. It found no wrongdoing on behalf of the marshals. “The investigation involved a review by judicial marshal supervisors and the personnel manager from Superior Court Operations administration of video, incident reports, handwritten logs of facility tours and the electronic tour device, which documents that tours have been conducted,” stated Melissa A. Farley, executive director of the judicial Branch’s External Affairs Division. She added that the investigators did not prepare a written report about all their findings.
Meanwhile, Lee Hayeshired attorney Pattis. In March 2013, a year after Hayes’ death, Pattis filed the formal request with the Office of the Claims Commissioner for a waiver to sue the state. A claims commission staffer estimated Friday that the commission will hold a hearing on whether to grant the waiver at some point in mid-2014.
As a result of Pattis’s filing, the state attorney general’s office, which is representing the government in the waiver request, asked the Judicial Department to prepare a written summary of the investigation’s findings. The office complied with an Independent request to release the written summary. (It also released this statement about the case: ““This case is in its initial stages, and we would decline specific comment at this time. However, the Office of the Attorney General has a responsibility to defend the state and its taxpayers, and we will address this claim fully at the appropriate time before the Claims Commissioner.”)
In the four-page written summary, investigator Jon Lucas reports that he conducted eight interviews—of eight marshals from the Union Avenue lock-up. All eight marshals had a union representative present for the interviews.
Judicial Marshal Timothy Kelly told Lucas that “he recalled Hayes yelling a lot of ‘stuff’ but does not recall Hayes asking for medication.”
Judicial Marshal Rubino “stated that he did not hear Hayes ask for her medication while in intake or while in her cell.”
Judicial Marshal Scarpa “stated that an no point while in custody, did Hayes ask for medication.”
Judicial Marshal Ortiz “stated that he escorted Hayes to her cell and she did not ask for medication at that point nor did she shout from her cell that she needed her medication.”
Judicial Marshal Houston “stated that while escorting Hayes to her cell, he remembers an unidentified female inmate, ‘obviously someone who knew her,’ say: ‘is that you Monique, is she drunk again?’” Houston also “stated that he does not remember Hayes asking for medication while escorting her to her cell.”
Judicial Marshal Joseph Tomasello state that he did “not recall Hayes asking anyone for medication. He added that because she was so intoxicated, she ‘probably wouldn’t have been able to ask [for medication].”
Judicial Marshal Limitone stated that “he did not recall Hayes asking for medication, however, if she had asked, it would appear in his ‘observation [report].’”
And Judicial Marshal Edward Saccu told Lucas that “Hayes was yelling and screaming and was ‘very intoxicated,’ and ‘not rational.’” He did “not recall Hayes asking for medication.”
All of that led Lucas to label the marshals’ accounts “consistent” and to write the following conclusion:
“There is no evidence to corroborate that on March 26, 2012, while an inmate at UADC [Union Avenue Detention Center], that Monique Hayes asked Judicial Marshals for her medication. There is no evidence to corroborate that Judicial Marshals working at UADC on March 26, 2012 ignored inmate Monique Hayes’ request for medication. Therefore, this claim in unsubstantiated.”
Not in attorney Pattis’s view.
“The reports we received [from the state] are virtually meaningless. You’d think they didn’t notice anything,” said Pattis (pictured in the video at left, addressing Occupy of New Haven protesters following a court victory). Only through discovery, he said, can the full story emerge of what happened to Monique Hayes in the lock-up that night.
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How about a rolling two day video loop recording in these cells? If someone drops dead or makes an accusation there will be evidence rather than all this he said she said nonsense? If I were going into lockup or dealing with prisoners I would perfer an eye in the sky to protect me. Is there a reason this is not done?