Yale Professor Dies In Lock-Up

There was no obvious sign of physical abuse or suicide after marshals found a 34-year-old Yale assistant professor of English dead in the police lock-up at 1 Union Ave., according to someone present at the scene that morning.

State judicial marshals, who run the lock-up, found the professor, Samuel See (pictured), dead in his cell at around 6 a.m. this past Sunday. Police had arrested See and his husband the night before after a domestic dispute.

Both the police department and the state Judicial Department, for whom the marshals work, have launched internal investigations into the death. (The medical examiner has not yet released a ruling on the cause of death.) Police had arrested both him and his husband on Sept. 18, as well, on misdemeanor assault and breach of peace charges after a domestic dispute; they both had restraining orders against each other. See, an admired teacher, had taken an apparently unplanned leave of absence this fall after planning to teach two courses, according to the Yale Alumni Magazine.

A man who was present in the lock-up Sunday morning reported no evidence of bruises on See’s body, except for a cut on his head (for which he had been taken to the hospital the night before).

Upon arriving at the lock-up Sunday morning, the man, who is neither a marshal nor an inmate (and who asked to remain anonymous), saw See’s body on the ground in a hallway. Marshals had moved other inmates to a different wing of the lock-up.

“Mr. See was already dead. It was apparent to me that they had made efforts to resuscitate. They had defibrillator electrodes attached to his chest. He was mostly covered with a blanket,” the man said.

“I spoke to the marshals. They honestly didn’t have any idea why this guy had died. They found him on his bunk.

“Marshals do the rounds every 15 minutes. I can vouch for the marshals; they’re a pretty harmless group of people. They’re not the kind of people who would beat anybody up. I have never seen them anybody abusing anyone. At most if anyone is being rowdy, they’ll do their best to ignore him. They’ll let him pound on the bars for an hour until he gets tired.

“I didn’t see any sign of injuries on him other than a mark on his forehead. I didn’t see bruising or anything like that.”

The marshals, who patrol the lock-up’s cells every 15 minutes, told him that when they discovered See, he was “not moving. His arm was hanging off the bunk in a very uncomfortable angle. There was [no sign of hanging].”

See’s husband was also present in the lock-up, “all broken up. He was a wreck, really upset.” The husband was released from custody soon after.

Police arrested See Saturday at his home Saturday during a dispute between him and his husband. They charged See with violating a protective order and interfering with police after he allegedly fought when them as they tried to handcuff him, and then allegedly yelled at an arresting officer, “I will kill you … I will destroy you.”

No new information has been released about the case since the Independent first reported Wednesday about See’s death in the lock-up. (The originally story appears below.) Among the questions that remain to be answered: How did See get the cut above his eye? How did he die in jail? Why was he arrested in his home for violating a protective order?

Those and other questions are to be the subject of an internal police inquiry ordered this week by Chief Dean Esserman. The Judicial Department will also look at how See died; department routinely investigates the deaths of inmates in lock-up.

The Independent’s original story follows:

A Yale assistant English professor was found dead in the police lock-up this weekend.

The professor, Samuel See (pictured), had been arrested by police in a domestic dispute. He was originally taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries in connection with the incident. Then he was released to the detention facility at police headquarters at 1 Union Ave.

The lock-up is run by marshals working for the state Judicial Department.

New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman said Wednesday that he has ordered an “internal inquiry into the entire event.”

“Any untimely death, this department will investigate fully,” including its own actions, Esserman said.

The state Judicial Department is currently conducting its own “internal review to make sure all of its policies and procedures were followed,” spokesman Rhonda Stearley-Hebert told the Independent Wednesday. She said that’s standard practice in these cases.

Earlier, Stearley-Hebert released this statement to the Independent:

“Mr. Samuel See was delivered to the detention center on Nov. 23 at approximately 9:10 p.m. by New Haven Police and was alert and communicating with Judicial Marshals throughout his detainment until Marshals assigned to the detention center found him non-responsive in his cell at approximately 6 a.m. on Nov. 24,” said Judicial Department spokesman Rhonda Hebert.

“Marshals immediately provided CPR and other lifesaving efforts, until relieved by New Haven Fire and Rescue.”

See is not believed to have committed suicide. He has had recent interactions with police.

See is on leave this fall, according to Yale’s website.

The Yale Alumni Magazine added this information: “See was ‘a brilliant and generous colleague,’ says English professor Amy Hungerford. She stresses ‘what his students said about him: he was totally dedicated, really kind, and gave his all to his teaching.’ See was on leave from the university this fall, which seems to have been arranged in haste: he was scheduled to teach classes this semester on Gertrude Stein and on “Queer Mythologies,” according to the Blue Book course catalogue. On September 18, he was arrested on misdemeanor charges of assault and breach of peace. A Yale spokesman didn’t answer a question about the reasons for See’s leave.”

See described his work as follows on the university website: “My research and teaching focus primarily on British and American modernist literature and sexuality studies. I’m currently interested in the questions that aesthetic and sexual feeling present for literary historiography. My first book project explores how British and American modernist writers co-opt the evolutionary precepts of degeneration theory to depict queer feeling as natural: material but nonetheless subject to change. My next book project will examine how British and American writers throughout the twentieth century use aesthetics like the mythical method and magic realism to create queer mythologies that depict the construction of transhistorical and transnational queer communities.”

Police spokesman Officer David Hartman released the following account of See’s arrest following inquiries from the Independent. (The name of See’s partner has been removed.)

“On 23 November, 2013 at 5:15 PM, Police received a complaint of a domestic dispute. The caller said her brother was one of the parties involved and that there was a protective order in place.

“Once there, Officers spoke with [See’s husband]. He said despite knowing about the protective order, he went to his home to retrieve his belongings. He said the home is lived in by his husband, Samuel See, 34, of New Haven. He said he spent about two and a half hours there before Police arrived. The protective order was verified and [See’s husband] was charged with violating it.

“The Officers then spoke with See. He told the Officers to remove [See’s husband] from his home. The Officers informed him there was a second protective order in which [See’s husband] was the party protected from See. See ‘became enraged.’ He yelled that it was his house and that he shouldn’t be arrested. See fought with the Officers when they tried handcuffing him.

“As See was led to a Police car, he yelled to one of the arresting Officers, ‘I will kill you… I will destroy you.’

“Officers summoned EMS to evaluate a cut above See’s eye. An ambulance responded and transported him to Yale - New Haven Hospital where his injury was treated. He was released to Police custody and taken to the detention facility.

“See was charged with violating a protective order, interfering with Police and threatening in the second degree.

“The investigation into the cause of See’s death remain under investigation.”

Yale spokesman Tom Conroy released this statement Wednesday afternoon:

“The University community is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Samuel See. Our condolences go out to his family, faculty colleagues, and students, and his friends at Yale and elsewhere. We encourage anyone at Yale who needs comfort and support at this time of loss to reach out to friends in the community or to University resources that are available for consultation and counseling (University Chaplain, Yale Mental Health and Counseling for students, and Magellan Health Services for staff). Mr. See was an assistant professor of English and American Studies who had been on leave during the current semester.”

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posted by: HewNaven on November 27, 2013  2:16pm

What is the frequency of people dying in lockup? How often does something like this happen in New Haven? I’m just trying to determine if this is a story only because of See’s Yale affiliation or if this is generally an uncommon occurrence (e.g. 1 per year). Either way, its disturbing.

posted by: jayfairhaven on November 27, 2013  2:53pm

this is absolutely horrible, and i can’t believe it was unreported for almost 4 days.

the quote in the report reads as an attempt to justify a death.

posted by: Charl on November 27, 2013  5:46pm

After reading the Comment Policy slowly and thoroughly (I have read the policy now more than 2 dozen times since it has been implemented), I will refrain from posting what I believe is likely to have occurred inside the lockup.

This story is so suspicious, and the Independent should press the NHPD like a winepress until sweet Truth wine flows.

Why was the story unreported for so many days?
Is it possible the Yale gunman hoax provided a national cover story in case this untimely death hit the news cycle?

Seeing as See was treated at YNHH before being put into a holding cell, there is zero possibility See was intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol, and he overdosed and died.  YNHH would have pumped his stomach, administered charcoal tablets, and kept him for observation if there was even a slight chance he was intoxicated from drugs or alcohol.

I would like to see that death certificate, and what the cause of death is listed as.

Also, it is common policy for Parole Officers to make a visual check of every bed and every documented individual held in lockup at the time, every hour on the hour.  Just a quick walk-through, so that this specifically does not happen, and the lockup is not held legally liable.  Also, this is done obviously to check not only on the welfare of the incarcerated individual, but to ensure no escape or attempt at escape is made.

Yes, I am extensively familiar with common practices within local, county, and state facilities within the CT Dept of Correction.

Either Mr. See died sometime between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. when he was discovered, or else the regular checks were not properly made (opening up the city and state to a huge lawsuit), or there is some other much darker explanation.

Editors of the NHI, is it your common practice to file FOI requests?  It would be an extremely incredible “get” for the death certificate.  The type of “get” that would potentially put the Independent on the international stage…

posted by: jayfairhaven on November 27, 2013  7:26pm

well said, charl, i couldn’t agree more.

posted by: EastRockIndependent on November 27, 2013  8:29pm

Paul & NHI: When did police officially release news of this—was today the first time it was made public? That seems very outside the standard procedure, no?

More clarity/detail on when press were told and how is really urgent for the public to know. also, Is there video of the holding cell that would be reviewed? Etc, etc.

Know it’s the first night of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving is tomorrow, but this demands much more investigation stat.

posted by: Psyche on November 27, 2013  8:51pm

Charl - I also am familiar with the practices and procedures of DOC and city jails, but I do know somethings things you may not be familiar with - A police lock-up is no where connected to the Department of Corrections. Both are two different entities. The DOC is where people are sent to when they have already been prosecuted and found guilty by a court of law and have received prison time. Jail is where people are sent when awaiting trial, have recently been arrested, etc. Many things could have happened in that holding cell other than what you are implying, especially in between 30 min checks. It is interesting to find that many people are so quick to vilify law enforcement, but when you need them, they can never respond fast enough. None of you would even care if this wasn’t a Yale professor. However, it does concern me that an esteemed university such as Yale would retain a professor who had a history of violence. Most workplaces have a zero tolerance for those type of crimes.

posted by: nhpdbornandraised on November 27, 2013  9:30pm

The thing that bothers me is normally prisoners are checked on every so often (not sure in relation to time). You would think at least once per hour. That’s the big question. The NHPD has nothing to do with detention besides the booking officer processing the prisoners (fingerprints, identification etc). NHPD seems to have done there job by making sure the gentleman received medical attention. YNHH released and medically cleared him. They are strict about those procedures. Seems as if the issue is solely on the judicial marshals. The whole notion of the call placed to Yale about the possible gunman being a distraction to this story is absolutely ridiculous and delusional so stop it. No one passes away in that lock-up. This is unheard of. I’ve lived in this city all of my life (besides college and traveling abroad) and I have never heard such a sad thing.

posted by: vc man on November 27, 2013  10:58pm

Charl, I’m not so sure you are as familiar as you say. The NHPD facility is maintained by the judicial marshals, which I believe is separate from Corrections. Also, parole officers would not be assigned since parole deals with people who have been in prison and are…on parole. I don’t know what the policy is in NHPD’s lockup for checking on prisoners.

Semantics aside, it seems this man was in a downward spiral and may not have been particularly healthy to begin with, or in the right state of mind. I’m not blaming the victim, but until more is known, suggesting that he was murdered or deliberately not cared for would be unfair to the hard working marshals who performed CPR in an attempt to save this man’s life.

Also, hospitals routinely release patients who still exhibit signs of intoxication. Waiting for a patient to have a blood alcohol content of 0.0 would waste space in an ER that is frequently working at capacity. I’ve seen it happen first hand many times.

posted by: Trustme on November 28, 2013  2:14am

This as nothing to do with NHPD Charl and definitely not Parole officers, it’s the detention marshals that work at lockup. Instead of jumping at the NHPD, who have no blame in this incident, just wait to know about the death certificate than your opinion might mean more. Mr. See, clearly had issues with his partner, which lead to domestic protective order. Mr. See had been seen leaving his home several times in a stretcher and a couple of times in handcuffs. People love to blame and point fingers before we know the facts.

posted by: Terry_L_Clark on November 28, 2013  2:26am

Does anyone see the raging contradiction with the “Judicial” branch of government doubling as jailer?  So much for the concepts of “separation of powers” and “independent judiciary”...what happens when they add the role of “executioner”?  (Whether that happened here remains to be seen…and where are you going to find a fair and impartial Judiciary to determine what really happened to the Professor?


“The lock-up is run by marshals working for the state Judicial Department.”

posted by: Syne on November 28, 2013  10:11am

Will the Independent answer Charl’s questions?  Or will the end of this story be left untold.

posted by: Ozzie on November 28, 2013  11:40am

Before people bash the New Haven Police , the lockup is run and monitored by the State of Ct. Marshall service . The only thing New Haven Police do is process the arrestee , as in fingerprint , photograph and set bond.

posted by: nhpdbornandraised on November 28, 2013  6:26pm

Terry_L_Clark you raise a good point. For years the detention center at One Union Avenue used to be run by the department of corrections. I always here veterans and retired corrections officers yapping about how the detention center was ran so much more efficiently then. I always thought it was odd that the marshal’s run the lock-up. I always considered them to be solely for court houses in C.T….oh well…let’s hope this man’s death wasn’t due to neglect or just merely doing hourly or less checks on inmates…..

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on November 28, 2013  8:27pm

Given that he was taken to the hospital for an apparently trivial head injury the night before, it is possible there was a delayed cerebral edema.

posted by: TheNewZero on November 29, 2013  11:54am

Being very careful what I write as my initial comment apparently violated the stringent commenting policy, I assume by too passionately raising the question of what role the victims sexuality played in his treatment, I also ask that the NHI tries to answer some of Charls questions. We are for all intents and purposes debating semantics regarding who runs the jail. At the end of the day there are the people and the institution, and by all reckoning it looks like the institution failed the people. Why was this released to the press days later with an overblown gunman scare triggered by one anonymous call from a pay phone occurring at the beginning of the following day, a Sunday going into Monday when this story would otherwise have had a very bright spotlight on it? This all smells incredibly strange, it stinks, and we need to know more.

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 30, 2013  3:03am

I offer my brief experiential view on this story….

During my detainment, the Judicial Marshals were the good guys.

posted by: Quixote on November 30, 2013  7:03pm

It is, of course, horrifying that these two people were incarcerated to begin with.  We all sit around shrugging our shoulders in the face of the over-criminalization of our society and the police brutality that accompanies it.  What should we do? Go out in the street and protest, like they do in Europe? We would simply be ignored and it would distract us from getting ahead with out careers.  This being said, jail cells are not safe places, and the psychological as well as physical shock endured by the organism when forcibly placed in one can be fatal.  For obvious reasons, the emotional shock can be even greater for members of the academic community.  For the experience of an academic whistle-blower incarcerated in the Rikers Island penal colony in retaliation for parody that was apparently too deadpan to qualify for First Amendment protection, see:


posted by: Charl on December 2, 2013  2:56pm

Awaiting an update on this event from the Independent.

PLEASE do not allow this to be “memory holed” and forgotten without an explanation!

posted by: Charl on December 2, 2013  4:18pm

I must not have clicked “Submit” or perhaps my previously submitted comment was not received or approved.


Is there any update on this event?
Please, New Haven Independent, stay on this story and press for information and transparency!  Please do not allow this story to be quietly forgotten about and “memory-holed.”
Thank you, newhavenindependent.org and all staff!