Tarrant County will pay $1 million to the family of man who remained dead in cell for 6 hours

By | September 19, 2023

Tarrant County has agreed to pay $1 million to the mother of a man who lay dead on the floor of a Tarrant County jail cell for six hours before staff discovered his body.

Javonte Myers, 28, died of a seizure disorder on June 19, 2020. Myers’ mother, Sondrea Miller, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Tarrant County Jail in April 2022. According to county records, the county will pay Sondrea Miller $900,000 and pay her attorney, Dean Malone, $100,000. The terms of the settlement agree that Myers’ family cannot bring any further legal action against the county regarding his death.

According to the indictment, a jailer accused of falsifying records in the Myers case told an investigator that his managers regularly encouraged staff to lie on inmate checks.

The lawsuit exposed an alleged culture of deception surrounding prison records. According to the investigation, two jailers, Erik Gay and Darien Kirk, lied about checking Myers more than 20 times and were charged with tampering with government records. According to court documents, those charges are still pending.

A Texas Ranger investigated Myers’ death, and during an interview with Gay, Gay said supervisors encouraged jailers to lie on records related to properly conducted background checks. Gay said supervisors were only concerned with “making the computer look good,” even amid other deaths at the prison, according to a transcript of the interview obtained by Miller’s attorney.

County officials did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment on the settlement.

About two months before Myers’ death, prison employees failed to check another person three times, leaving him alone for nearly an hour. He committed suicide. The prison also lost state certification for six days in summer 2020.

Other jailers interviewed during the investigation admitted that it was common practice not to properly screen people in prison, according to the indictment.

Myers lay dead in his cell for hours before anyone noticed, according to the indictment. A MedStar report obtained by the family’s attorney states that Myers had obvious signs of rigor mortis on both arms, hands, fingers and jaw. Myers was last seen alive at 10:44 am. MedStar was called to his cell phone only at 4.49pm.

The indictment alleges that the sheriff’s office falsified documents to make it appear that adequate checks had been carried out on Myers. Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office personnel told an emergency medical technician that “routine visual checks were being performed on (Myers) every 15 minutes,” according to the lawsuit.

“This was clearly false and designed to make the jailers and the sheriff’s office appear to have done nothing wrong,” the lawsuit says.

Kirk, the other jailer accused of falsifying records, told investigators he was unaware that Myers had any health problems, even though intake notes show the prison knew Myers had a seizure disorder, insomnia, schizophrenia , bipolar disorder and anxiety. The prison intake form also indicated that Myers had been hospitalized within the previous 90 days due to seizures.

In June, another family filed a lawsuit against the Tarrant County Jail alleging that their mother did not receive adequate health care and died on the floor of her cell. Georgia Kay Baldwin was declared incompetent to stand trial and should have been transferred to a state hospital, according to the federal lawsuit filed by her children. Instead, her mental state worsened until September 14, 2021, when the 52-year-old was found dead in her cell. Her cause of death was listed as dehydration; she was lying right next to the working fountain attached to the toilet in her cell.

The lawsuit alleges that the Tarrant County Jail caused Baldwin’s death because of its “policies, practices and customs” of not caring for the medical and mental health crises of incarcerated people.

So far this year, seven people have died in the Tarrant County Jail, according to in-custody death reports. The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office has come under public scrutiny due to allegations of neglect, abuse and a lack of transparency.

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