SALT LAKE CITY — Apparently contrary to agency policy, the Weber County Jail kept no log of the final 22 ½ hours an inmate spent in the booking area before he was found unconscious, court depositions show.
Ashley Evan Jessop, 35, died March 3, 2016, in an Ogden hospital three days after he became unresponsive in the jail’s intake, or booking, area.
An attorney representing Jessop’s mother, Michelle Shafer, filed a civil rights wrongful-death suit against the county in February 2018. And last week he filed a 175-page document in U.S. District Court elaborating on the allegedly poor medical care received by the intoxicated man.
According to a transcript of a March 5, 2019, deposition of former Sheriff Terry Thompson, Shafer’s attorney, Shane Gosdis, hit hard at the lack of written evidence that jail personnel were monitoring Jessop during his last day there.
Gosdis pointed to Sheriff’s Office policy that says corrections deputies are required to conduct “visual safety checks at least once every 30 to 60 minutes for all inmates.”
Those checks “shall be done by personal observation” and “shall be sufficient to determine whether the inmate is experiencing any stress or trauma.”
Checks are to “be clearly documented on permanent logs,” the policy says.
Gosdis said no record of observation of Jessop existed between 12:04 p.m. Feb. 28, 2016, and 11 a.m. the next day.
He asked Thompson about that during the deposition. The sheriff, who left office at the beginning of 2019, said the booking area is easily seen by jail staff, contrasted to the limited views into the jail’s regular cells.
“I don’t know that we logged those in booking, because most of the inmates in booking are readily viewable from our staff location,” Thompson said.
In general jail housing, Thompson said “you’ve got to go and specifically look at each individual inmate or individual cell.”
But the jail policy has no exception for checks of inmates in the booking area, Gosdis said, asserting it’s an example of deviation from policies that are meant to keep inmates safe.
“If there was any indication that we had sloppy record keeping, that would have been brought to my attention, we would have addressed it,” Thompson said.
TIMING OF SCREENING DOCUMENT QUESTIONED
Gosdis also asked why the jail’s medical screening document on Jessop was not filled out until 11:40 a.m. Feb. 29, after the inmate was taken to the hospital.
“Is that a common practice in the jail when you were sheriff, to fill out the medical screening portion of this form after the fact?” Gosdis asked Thompson.
“I don’t know,” Thompson said. “I can’t possibly know the hundreds of documents that we use in this office.”
In his July 31 filing, Gosdis said Thompson violated Jessop’s constitutional right to adequate medical care by allegedly failing to properly train and monitor his officers’ compliance with policies requiring intake procedures, medical treatment, and inmate safety checks.
Jessop told corrections deputy Allen Jacobsen at the start of the booking process that he was “almost” suicidal, was taking psychiatric medications and had a seizure disorder.
Jessop also was heavily intoxicated, arrested after having barged into another tenant’s dwelling in his Ogden apartment complex.
“Officer Jacobsen similarly violated Mr. Jessop’s constitutional right to medical treatment by indicating on the Intake Screening Form that he did not need to be checked by medical and by failing to ensure that medical prescribed seizure medications,” Gosdis asserted in his July 31 filing.
In his deposition, Jacobsen said Jessop was able to walk into the booking area.
“After talking with Mr. Jessop, I did not see any reason to put him on (a medical) watch while we were going to be watching him come off of alcohol or drugs or whatever he was on at the time,” Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen also discounted any worry about suicide.
“He never showed me any signs of wanting to hurt himself,” Jacobsen said of Jessop. “He was more frustrated about being arrested.”
The medical staff would have been called “instantly” had Jessop “showed physical signs of hurting,” Jacobsen said.
REPEATED DISTURBING CONDUCT NOT ADDRESSED?
But Gosdis said a jail incident report from 3:52 a.m. Feb. 28 described a deputy having “witnessed Mr. Jessop lying on the floor ... sticking his fingers up his anus and screaming.”
“Officers knowingly allowed Mr. Jessop to engage in such conduct with impunity,” Gosdis wrote.
The following day, a jail nurse wrote in a report after Jessop was taken to the hospital that booking staff reported “Jessop had been using his hand and fist to insert into his anus and rectum repeatedly during his booking stay.”
Gosdis said Jessop was left to lapse into unconsciousness.
Gosdis said Jessop’s death certificate identified his cause of death as “hepatorenal syndrome due to (or as a consequence of) Rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which skeletal muscle tissue dies (in this case from Mr. Jessop’s body lying on the floor for an extended period of time), releasing substances into the blood that cause kidney failure.”
In its motion asking the court to dismiss the lawsuits, the county said Jessop was diagnosed at the hospital with “several chronic diseases.” But in his response, Gosdis said Rhabdomyolysis, acute kidney injury and gastrointestinal bleed, are not chronic diseases.
Shafer’s suit now continues through the Pretrial phase. The court next may rule to dismiss the suit or allow it to continue toward trial.
The county recently won a different jail death case.
Marion Herrera, 40, of Ogden, died of heroin withdrawal and dehydration in the jail in May 2016 and a lawsuit accused the county of violating her civil rights.
But Frank Mylar, an attorney representing the county, said undisputed facts gathered during the litigation showed Herrera’s side failed to demonstrate constitutional violations occurred. The Herrera family then agreed to drop the suit.