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Feds decline to charge over inmate’s 2018 death in NY

Attorney’s office: Not enough evidence

HARRISBURG (AP) — Prison guards won’t be charged in the death of an inmate at the York County jail more than three years ago, federal prosecutors said Thursday in announcing the end of their review.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Harrisburg said there was not enough evidence to pursue a federal criminal civil rights case against jail employees for the April 2018 death of Everett Palmer Jr.

In a release, the office of U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus said that there was not sufficient evidence to prove that the use of force by prison guards was objectively unreasonable, that they acted with indifference to Palmer’s known medical needs or that they intended to break the law.

Prosecutors decided the facts did not meet a high standard for prosecution under the civil rights statute and said their conclusion was not “an assessment of any other aspect of this incident.”

Palmer, 41, of Seaford, Delaware, died of “complications following an excited state, associated with methamphetamine toxicity, during physical restraint,” the coroner previously ruled. He became unresponsive and died at a hospital two days after being jailed on a DUI charge.

Lee Merritt, who represents Palmer’s mother, Rose Palmer, in a federal wrongful death lawsuit currently pending in federal court, said inadequately trained guards used excessive and brutal methods to extract him from his cell.

He said the level of methamphetamines in his blood suggest Palmer may have had access to the drugs inside the prison.

Palmer had been diagnosed with “adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct” by the Department of the Army, and his prison intake form noted a history of mental health treatment for “depression bipolar,” according to his estate’s attorneys.

“The crime here was obvious,” Merritt said. “Everett Palmer presented in medical crisis, in mental health crisis. Law enforcement had a responsibility and an obligation to get him to a mental health treatment facility.”

Another lawyer for Palmer’s estate, John Coyle, said video of Palmer’s time in the county lockup can’t be released to the public under a court order but shows he was treated in a way that Coyle believes does warrant criminal charges.

“He stripped his clothes off naked and was screaming and climbing in his cell and they did nothing,” Coyle said. Palmer was having auditory and visual hallucinations, was confused and agitated, Coyle said, and “at times the guards are prodding him and messing with him.”

The York County district attorney’s office made a similar finding in March that charges were not warranted after a grand jury investigation.

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