NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City and its Department of Correction has been hit with a $25 million lawsuit, filed by the mother of a war veteran who died in an overheated jail cell at Rikers Island.
As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Friday, Alma Murdough wiped away tears as she filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, claiming negligence after her son — former Marine Jerome Murdough — was found dead in a 100-degree jail cell that overheated due to an equipment malfunction.
“I ain’t got my son. I don’t ave my son. No money can bring him back,” Mrs. Murdough said.
Jerome Murdough, 56, was a homeless former Marine who was held at Rikers on $2,500 bail after being arrested for allegedly trespassing at a housing project while looking for a warm place to sleep.
Mrs. Murdough told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones she can’t shake the image of her son in the morgue.
“With his mouth open, gives me the impression that he was hollering for help and no one came,” she said.
Murdough had been in the psychiatric section of Rikers and was supposed to be checked on every 15 minutes. Sources told CBS 2 he wasn’t check for four hours.
“We also know that Jerome, when they checked the internal temperature of his body four hours after he was found unresponsive, that his temperature was 103 degrees. So we can only guess how high his temperature was when he was actually found,” said Derek Sells, the family’s attorney.
Citing a preliminary DOC investigation, court documents filed last month in a separate federal court case said the cell was 101 degrees. Murdough was slumped at the edge of the foot of his bed with “a pool of vomit and blood on the floor,” the documents said.
Murdough was on psychotropic medication at the time of his death, which experts say can make people sensitive to heat.
“Mr. Murdough who was arrested on a trespassing charge, ended up getting the death penalty, Sells told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
Sells said he will ask the city to preserve all communications and 911 recordings regarding Jerome Murdough’s death.
A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said Murdough’s death in Department of Correction custody was “unfortunate” and a “tragedy for the entire city.”
“This administration takes seriously the responsibility of keeping inmates and correction staff safe in its facilities,” said spokeswoman Marti Adams.
The Bronx District Attorney’s Office is investigating the death and will not release autopsy results until the grand jury completes its work.
Corrections officials have declined to comment, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
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