Family Claims Filthy Jail Cell Led To Man's Death Behind Bars

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UPDATED: Tuesday April 29, 2014 6:30 PM

The family of man who died at Franklin County Jail is now suing the county.

The victim’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, claiming conditions inside the cell led to their father's death. That's something the county denies.

Michael Gay says he feels his father was treated unfairly.

His father, 48-year-old Edward Peterson took his last breath inside the Franklin County Jail in 2011. Peterson suffered from a heart condition and mental illness.

The coroner ruled his death natural from hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

“I was led to believe it was something that happened instantly that he just passed," he says.

But months later, his son says photos from inside their father's cell changed their minds. The photos show feces and garbage on the cell floor and walls.

The sheriff's internal investigation found "a profound lack of leadership" and called the inmates cell "nothing short of mass of putrid filth."

The attorney representing the family is convinced the conditions contributed to Peterson's heart problems and deputies failed to supervise him.

“It was just a gross neglect and deliberate indifference towards Mr. Peterson that the Columbus Fire Department, when they came into the code blue the 911 call, they were disgusted by the condition of the cell,” says Attorney Avonte Canpinah-Bacote, who represents the inmate’s family.

While an internal investigation concluded that more than 50 deputies may have violated rules and regulations - the outcome shocked the victim's attorney.

“No one is disciplined, except a mental health liaison," says Canpinah-Bacote.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien says despite the conditions of Peterson's cell, deputies are not to blame.

“He would have this cardiac episode whether he was in the jail or not in the jail, or whether he was in a perfectly clean cell or a cell that was not perfectly clean,” he says.

As for the family of Edward Peterson, they hope their lawsuit will bring about change.
 
According to the victim's attorney, two other inmates heard Peterson gasp for air, but no jail employee checked on him.

In the end, a federal jury will determine the outcome of this case.

The family is contending the inmate’s 8th Amendment rights were violated, which protects someone against cruel and unusual punishment.

The trial is set for the end of the year.

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