United States District Court, S.D. Texas
OPINION ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT
N. Hughes United States District Judge.
the evening on November 1, 2015, Eugene Ethridge, Jr., was
arrested for driving while intoxicated while two of his minor
children were in his truck. The minors were placed with their
mother, Ashley Yates. The truck was towed. Upon being
arrested, Ethridge was first taken to Fort Bend County Jail,
then taken to Oakbend Medical Center where blood and other
fluids were drawn for the criminal case. He was returned to
the jail, completed an initial medical screening, and was
placed in the detoxification unit. After detox released him,
he completed a suicide screening form. He denied having (a)
suicidal thoughts, at that time or ever, (b) depression, and
(c) ever attempted suicide. Ethridge was not fitted in a
suicide smock nor placed in a padded cell. He was assigned a
general population, one-man cell (40-17), and given standard
the overnight shift of November 2-3, Officer Brandon Satchell
was assigned to the 4G and 4H cell units, housing Ethridge.
His shift was from ten p.m. until six a.m. Satchell was then
replaced by Deputy Darren Patton for the next shift.
According to jail practice, jailers are to make face-to-face
rounds every sixty minutes. Satchell admits to skipping one
of his face-to-face rounds and falsifying his rounds sheet.
November 3, Ethridge did not leave his cell for breakfast. A
little before six a.m., the shift changed. Deputy Patton made
his rounds and he discovered Ethridge's body dangling
from his bed sheet that he had tied to a shelf. Ethridge was
pronounced dead shortly after being freed from the sheet. He
had committed suicide. Officer Satchell was fired.
plaintiffs are Eugene Ethridge, Sr., father of the decedent;
Tyler Broussard, adult son of the decedent; Ashley Yates,
fiance and mother of two of the decedent's children; and
Debbie Alexander, mother of two of the decedent's
children. Not one of these plaintiffs was present when
Ethridge wrecked his truck, was arrested, was transported to
the medical center or to jail. Not one has direct personal
knowledge of the suicidal ideations of Ethridge, that night
or ever. No. affidavit or record about his mental condition
has been offered. No. one has personal knowledge of anything
that happened in the cell that early morning of November 3.
The defendants are Sheriff Troy Nehls (who was not present at
the jail during the incident), Brandon Satchell, and Fort
Bend County, Texas.
October 2015, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards sent
Fort Bend County an At-Risk letter. That responded to an
earlier inmate suicide. The letter said that "toe
failure to observe the inmate within thirty minutes
occurred prior to his death and did not contribute
to bis death in any manner." The Commission
mandated Fort Bend - and all other county jails in Texas - to
use its revised intake screening form by December 1, 2015.
The old form was used during Ethridge's November intake.
The old form had five questions on depression and suicide,
and the new form has five questions on depression and
suicide. Despite these questions, Ethridge denied being
depressed or suicidal, marking no to each question.
jail cell has an intercom button for an inmate to press at
any time. The jailer on duty can hear and respond to the
call. Jailers respond to the button use by inmates without
knowing the need, whether urgent or not. It is unclear
whether Ethridge used his button during the overnight shift
from November 2 to 3. No. verifiable evidence shows if
Ethridge did in fact use it.
affidavits - from fellow inmates - show agreement that an
intercom button was pushed. Inmate One recalls that
allof the inmates heard the buzzing and
started shouting. It went on, he insists, for about 20
minutes. He looked for an officer from inside his cell, but
he did not see one in the picket, nor one doing rounds.
Two shares Inmate One's experience. However, from his
cell location, he was able to see inside of Ethridge's
cell. He claims to have seen Ethridge himself pressing the
button and yelling for an officer's assistance.
Three echoes the statements of the other two. He woke up to
the button being pressed. From his cell location, he insists
that he also saw Ethridge himself pressing the ...