Trial to begin for family of inmate suing Sheriff Gusman

Published: Apr. 28, 2014 at 2:14 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 8:56 PM CDT
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Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The family of an man being held at Orleans Parish Prison who died while in custody, will get their day in court Monday. Kerry Washington's widow is suing Sheriff Marlin Gusman and two deputies for his death.

39-year-old Kerry Washington was, according to those who knew him, a devoted family man. Attorney Jill Craft says he spent all of his free time with his wife and kids. "They'd been married a long time. They raised two step children and one child of their own together," said Craft.

On one late April day in 2006, Washington and his wife had a fight. She called 911, and Washington was arrested. Craft explains, "He gets taken to jail in Jefferson Parish. Jefferson Parish gets some sort of warrant hold from Orleans Parish which they claimed was a missed court date on a misdemeanor so then he gets transported to Orleans Parish on or about April 27th, 28th and he is dead within 24 hours."

Craft says Washington got into some sort of altercation with OPP deputies. He was taken to the medical tier where witnesses say he was bleeding and acting incoherently. Despite his symptoms, he was put in restraints and later died. Craft says, "He was a bloody mess, he had contusions all over his head. He had these strap marks across his chest, wrists, ankles, legs."

Craft says the altercation involving Washington happened at the now shuttered House of Detention. Sheriff Gusman closed the building in 2012 after harsh criticism over inmates safety and living conditions.

"What's so tragic about it, is this was an incident in '06. It took until June of 2013 for the Justice Department and the federal courts to issue their consent decree citing the same circumstances that were present so many years earlier," said Craft.

Washington's family is suing Sheriff Gusman and two OPP deputies. They say in addition to the pain of having lost a loved one, they weren't notified of Washington's death until 30 days after the fact. "They were steadily told by the sheriff's office the whole time that he's been released or that he'd expired and they said what does expired mean? Well, he's been released from jail," said Craft.

Now, the family is seeking damages. The trial begins Monday morning.

We reached out to a spokesman for the sheriff's office for comment on this story but he didn't get back to us.

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