Jury Recommends Criminal Charges Against 7 Staffers in Milwaukee Jail Death

May 1, 2017

A Milwaukee jury is recommending that the district attorney file criminal charges against seven county jail staffers for the death of 38-year-old Terrill Thomas. He died of dehydration, after employees shut off his water for seven days. The jurors recommend charging the staff with abuse of a resident of a penal facility. Now the DA will decide whether to follow the jury's recommendation.

Monday's verdict followed six days of prosecutors questioning people involved in the care of inmates at the Milwaukee County Jail. DA John Chisholm told the jurors, in closing statements, that the jail staff missed multiple opportunities to help Thomas, during the week he was alone in a cell. A supervisor had ordered his water be shut off until he stopped acting out - he had stuffed a mattress in a toilet and flooded a previous cell, but it appears there was no follow-up, to ensure he had water afterwards.

Sheriff David Clarke is responsible for operating the jail, but the criminal inquest did not target him. The recommended charges are against two jail supervisors and five correctional officers. Clarke's legal obligation to run the jail however, could potentially be raised in civil litigation.