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Estate of Adams v. Christian County

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

March 9, 2017

ESTATE OF DENNIS E. ADAMS, Deceased, By ANGELA DREW, Administrator, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTIAN COUNTY, BRUCE KETTLEKAMP, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Christian County and in his individual capacity, and ANDREW NELSON, in his official capacity as Christian County Jail Administrator and in his individual capacity, Defendants.

          OPINION

          RICHARD MILLS, U.S. District Judge

         This is a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, wherein the Plaintiff alleges the Defendants committed a number of constitutional violations arising from the incarceration and death of Dennis E. Adams at the Christian County Correctional Center.

         Pending before the Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

         For the reasons that follow, the Plaintiff's Motion is Allowed in part and Denied in Part.

         I. FACTS

         A. Background

         The Plaintiff's decedent, Dennis E. Adams, committed suicide while incarcerated in the Christian County Jail on November 4, 2011. Dennis Adams had been arrested on August 19, 2011, after he shot his wife, Jolene Adams.

         Throughout the time period relevant to this case, Defendant Andrew Nelson was the Jail Administrator of the Christian County Sheriff's Office acting within the scope of his employment under color of law. On August 19, 2011, at approximately 7:51 a.m., Christian County Sheriff's Deputies responded to a call that a woman had been shot. Upon arrival, Officer Miller was advised that Jolene Adams had been shot by Dennis Adams. Jolene Adams told Officer Miller that she was getting into her vehicle, which was parked in the driveway, when she was shot in the shoulder. Dennis Adams fired several more times towards Jolene before leaving the scene.

         Dennis Adams was located approximately two hours later at 9:22 a.m., near the railroad tracks in the 100 block of South Baughman Road in Taylorville, Illinois. When Mr. Adams was found, he had a revolver handgun to his head. The Illinois State Police Crisis Negotiator was called. Numerous police officers from the Christian County Sheriff's Office were also present at the scene.

         Defendant Andrew Nelson was aware that after an approximately three hour long standoff, Dennis Adams was apprehended by Officer Nation and Deputy Marron when Adams placed the revolver down to wipe his forehead. Adams was arrested and transported to Taylorville Memorial Hospital where he was treated for a small abrasion on his right forearm and an old ankle injury.

         According to the Christian County Mental Health Crisis Assessment form dated August 19, 2011, Dennis Adams was evaluated for suicidal tendencies at Taylorville Memorial Hospital by Barb Brauer of Christian County Mental Health. Ms. Brauer diagnosed Adams with depressive disorder not otherwise specified. Andrew Nelson was given a copy of the August 19, 2011 Christian County Mental Health Crisis form on or about August 19, 2011.

         According to the Taylorville Emergency Department Notes and the Discharge Instructions, Dr. Matthew Yociss examined Dennis Adams. In his discharge instructions, Dr. Yociss advised that Adams should be given “suicide precautions.” Dr. Yociss instructed Adams that he should follow up with Dr. McClintock “as needed” for follow up care. The Taylorville Memorial Hospital Discharge Instructions were in the possession of the Christian County Sheriff's Office. No follow up care was ever given to Adams.

         B. Placement at Christian County Correctional Center

         After his evaluation, Dennis Adams was transported to the Christian County Correctional Center. Andrew Nelson was aware that Adams was going to be taken to the Christian County Correctional Center prior to his arrival.

         The Christian County Correctional Center Padded Cell Report states that Dennis Adams was placed into the “Padded Cell” at 1 p.m. on August 19, 2011. The reason Adams was placed into the Padded Cell of the Christian County Correctional Center was because he was suicidal. The placement was approved by Andrew Nelson.

         Dennis Adams was placed on a 30-minute watch as opposed to the standard 15-minute watch. When Adams arrived at the Christian County Correctional Center, Correctional Officer Bill Hogan completed an intake form. Nelson was given a copy of the intake form.

         Dennis Adams was charged with two counts of Attempted First degree Murder. On August 21, 2011, Adams's bond was set at $2, 000, 000. Adams was unable to post the requisite amount of bond money and remained incarcerated at the Christian County Correctional Center.

         On August 24, 2011, Mr. Adams's court-appointed public defender, Michael Havera, filed a motion for examination by psychiatrist. According to the motion, Mr. Havera had a bona fide doubt as to Adams's fitness to stand trial or to plead guilty and be sentenced. Mr. Havera testified that he visited Mr. Adams approximately every two weeks. Havera stated that Adams was cooperative in his defense and at no time appeared suicidal. However, the Plaintiff alleges the fact that Mr. Havera filed the motion demonstrates that Havera noticed Adams had displayed psychiatric problems.

         On August 25, 2011, Dennis Adams was denied bond, meaning that no amount of money would secure his release, while charges were pending. The same day, Mr. Adams was re-evaluated by the Christian County Mental Health Association. The Christian County Mental Health Association Crisis Assessment form dated August 25, 2011 provides that Adams was reevaluated by Julie Chastain. Ms. Chastain recommended that Adams remain in the Padded Cell because of suicidal tendencies and that he needed to be re-evaluated on the morning of August 26, 2011. Ms. Chastain diagnosed Mr. Adams with an adjustment disorder and personality disorder not otherwise specified.

         No evaluation occurred after August 25, 2011. There was no mental health treatment at the Christian County Correctional Center during the time of Dennis Adams's incarceration.

         On August 30, 2011, Mr. Havera argued his motion for examination by psychiatrist. The motion was granted. Subsequently, Dr. Terry Killian of Killian and Associates in Springfield, Illinois was appointed to conduct a psychiatric examination of Mr. Adams for the purpose of giving opinions regarding Adams's fitness to stand trial, his sanity at the time of his alleged crimes and for possible psychiatric mitigation. Dr. Killian was not hired to, nor did he, render any psychiatric or medical treatment to Adams.

         The Defendants note that Dr. Killian did not mention in his report that he felt Dennis Adams was suicidal or needed to be under suicide watch. Less than a month before Mr. Adams's suicide, Dr. Killian recommended that Adams be sent for an inpatient evaluation and treatment in the Illinois Department of Human Services. The Defendants allege that no action was taken by the court or the prosecutor to transfer Adams to a facility. Moreover, the Defendants allege they had no control over the court or prosecutor and were helpless to do anything at that time.

         The following day, according to the Padded Cell History and Isolation Cell History, Dennis Adams was transferred out of the Padded Cell and into the Isolation Cell. Andrew Nelson was given a copy of the August 25, 2011 Crisis Assessment prior to his decision to transfer Dennis Adams out of the Padded Cell and into the Isolation Cell. This transfer was done at the direction of Nelson. The transfer was also ordered without the aid, direction, or consultation of any mental health professional and against the recommendation of Julie Chastain on August 25, 2011.

         The Isolation Cell is not suicide resistant and contains a number of protrusions that were conducive to suicide attempts by hanging. These include open-faced cell bars, clothing hooks and a towel bar attached to the sink.

         According to the letter written by Andrew Nelson to Christian County Sheriff Bruce Kettlekamp dated December 2, 2011, Adams was transferred out of the Padded Cell and into the Isolation Cell because another inmate, Lacey Myers, was booked into the Christian County Correctional Center. Christian County Correctional Center staff knew that Myers suffered from mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, and was a suicide risk.

         The Christian County Correctional Center has only one Padded Cell and one Isolation Cell. According to the December 2, 2011 letter of Andrew Nelson, “Christian County Correctional Center has only one padded cell at its disposal and housing therein is based on immediate need.”

         According to the Padded Cell History, Inmate Myers was housed in the Padded Cell from August 31, 2011 to September 1, 2011. The Padded Cell was vacant from September 1, 2011 to September 6, 2011, while Mr. Adams was housed in the Isolation Cell. Adams was housed in the Isolation Cell from August 31, 2011 to September 13, 2011.

         C. Transfer to Bullpen Area and suicide

         According to his letter, Andrew Nelson ordered Dennis Adams transferred from the Isolation Cell to the Bullpen Area on September 14, 2011. The transfer was also ordered without the aid, direction or consultation of any mental health professional and against the recommendation of Julie Chastain on August 25, 2011. Nelson's letter to Sheriff Kettlekamp provided that he ordered Adams transferred on September 14, 2011, because another inmate incurred a disciplinary infraction. Nelson testified the decision may have been based on information from Christian County Mental Health.

         The Isolation Cell Report shows that the next inmate to enter into the Isolation Cell was Aaron Matthews two days later on September 16, 2011. The Bullpen Area of the Christian County Correctional Center is a general population area. It has less ...


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