Lawsuit in Del. Inmate's Suicide Moves Forward - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Lawsuit in Del. Inmate's Suicide Moves Forward

Posted: Updated:
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP)- A Delaware family who sued two state Department of Corrections officials over an inmate's 2004 suicide can move forward with their lawsuit, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The wife and children of Christopher Barkes, who committed suicide at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in November 2004, filed the lawsuit in 2006 against former Delaware Department of Correction Commissioner Stan Taylor and former warden Raphael Williams, both now retired.

In a 2-1 decision on Sept. 5, a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that the Barkes family can sue the former corrections officials, rejecting the officials' arguments that they should be immune from the lawsuit.

Attorney Jeffrey Martin, who represents the Barkes family, said his clients are pleased that the case is finally moving forward after so many years.

The Delaware Attorney General's Office, which represented the corrections officials, said they're reviewing their options but declined to comment on the case. They could ask for the full 3rd Circuit to review the decision or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Christopher Barkes, 37, hanged himself with a sheet in his cell at Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Baltimore on Nov. 14, 2004, less than 24 hours after being arrested for violating probation.

Despite a history of substance abuse and suicide attempts, including one at Howard during a previous incarceration, a prison nurse passed Barkes through a mental health screening without calling for any special observation or care, the court ruling said.

The nurse apparently did not check prison records or probation reports describing Barkes as a threat to himself, instead relying on a form Barkes filled out saying he wasn't suicidal and didn't have substance abuse issues, the ruling said.

Still, Martin said Barkes did indicate on the form that he had attempted suicide in 2003, and that should have raised a red flag for the nurse, employed by First Correctional Medical, the company Delaware hired provide medical services in state prisons.

The 3rd Circuit panel ruled that Barkes' family's lawsuit can proceed against Taylor and Williams because both had been put on notice about the "deteriorating quality" of First Correctional Medical's care before the suicide.

Audits cited repeated deficiencies and on June 2004, five months before Barkes' suicide, one corrections official described the company as "beyond the borderline of not being in compliance with the contract," according to meeting minutes.

In court depositions, Williams and Taylor said they were aware the company was falling short and may have been intentionally keeping positions vacant to save money.

The corrections department didn't take any apparent action against First Correctional Medical until May 2005, six months after Barkes' suicide, according to court records.

The Barkes family also sued First Correctional Medical. In 2008, a judge found in favor of the family and ordered the company to pay them $850,000. But the company went into bankruptcy and the family was never able to collect on the award, Martin said.

The remaining lawsuit against Taylor and Williams seeks unspecified damages for Barkes' widow and two children.

Martin said his clients have been left with a void in their lives and are looking forward to having their day in court.

  • Most Popular VideosMost Popular VideosMore>>

  • New Waterfront Hotel Breaks Ground in O.C., Part 2

    New Waterfront Hotel Breaks Ground in O.C., Part 2

    The location of a new waterfront hotel that recently broke ground in Ocean City is raising some eyebrows with neighbors in the downtown area.

    The Cambria Hotel is being built in the vacant lot that sits just north of the Route 50 drawbridge, meaning it will be one of the first things drivers see headed into town.

    Brian Plimack, who lives just behind the development, said the hotel is too much of a drastic change to the town's skyline.

    More

    The location of a new waterfront hotel that recently broke ground in Ocean City is raising some eyebrows with neighbors in the downtown area.

    The Cambria Hotel is being built in the vacant lot that sits just north of the Route 50 drawbridge, meaning it will be one of the first things drivers see headed into town.

    Brian Plimack, who lives just behind the development, said the hotel is too much of a drastic change to the town's skyline.

    More
  • Suspect in DSP Trooper Killing Dead; Barricade Situation Over

    Suspect in DSP Trooper Killing Dead; Barricade Situation Over

    A barricade situation involving a suspect in the shooting death of a Delaware State Police trooper is dead and the standoff is over.

    According to Master Corporal Jeffrey Hale with the Delaware State Police, the male suspect exited the home in Middletown, Del. around 9:17am and engaged police. The suspect was then shot by police and was pronounced dead at the scene just before 9:30am Thursday, Hale said.

    More

    A barricade situation involving a suspect in the shooting death of a Delaware State Police trooper is dead and the standoff is over.

    According to Master Corporal Jeffrey Hale with the Delaware State Police, the male suspect exited the home in Middletown, Del. around 9:17am and engaged police. The suspect was then shot by police and was pronounced dead at the scene just before 9:30am Thursday, Hale said.

    More
  • Update: Man In Critical Condition After Seaford Crash

    Update: Man In Critical Condition After Seaford Crash

    Delaware State Police continue to investigate a serious crash that closed down parts of Route 13 for three hours. The accident happened around 12:00 pm Saturday when a 29 year-old Laurel man driving in the southbound lanes of Route 13 swerved left, colliding into a car of a 60 year-old driver from Maryland. Police say the 60-year-old man's car went into the median, and the driver wasn't hurt, but the Laurel man's car barrel rolled across the northbound lanes of Route 13.

    More

    Delaware State Police continue to investigate a serious crash that closed down parts of Route 13 for three hours. The accident happened around 12:00 pm Saturday when a 29 year-old Laurel man driving in the southbound lanes of Route 13 swerved left, colliding into a car of a 60 year-old driver from Maryland. Police say the 60-year-old man's car went into the median, and the driver wasn't hurt, but the Laurel man's car barrel rolled across the northbound lanes of Route 13.

    More
Powered by Frankly

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices