The mother of a mentally ill, homeless veteran who was found dead in a New York City jail cell that overheated due to an equipment malfunction plans to file a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city.
Alma Murdough’s attorney, Derek Sells, said he will also request that the city preserve all 911 recording regarding former Marine Jerome Murdough’s death on Rikers Island.
He filed a notice of claim, the first procedural step necessary for a civil suit against the city, with the comptroller’s office on April 30 on behalf of the inmate’s 75-year-old mother. In it, he writes that the 56-year-old Murdough’s death was caused by carelessness and negligence by Department of Correction employees.
Prosecutors in the Bronx are investigating the death. “This case involves a tragic incident and we will review the lawsuit and respond accordingly,” said Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s law department.
Corrections officials have declined to comment, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
According to reports by the Associated Press, one official who spoke at the time on the condition of anonymity described Murdough as having “basically baked to death.”
Court documents filed last month in a separate federal court case show that Murdough’s internal body temperature was 103 degrees. It was taken four hours after he was discovered unresponsive in a Rikers Island jail cell on Feb. 15. The cell itself was 101 degrees.
A spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office says the exact cause and manner of Murdough’s death has not yet been determined, pending further studies. But the court documents show the medical examiner investigator assigned to Murdough’s case preliminarily found he likely died of hyperthermia.
DOC officials have said he was left unattended for hours. Murdough was arrested Feb. 7 for trespassing as he slept in an enclosed stairwell on the roof of a public housing building to keep warm.
He was unable to make the $2,500 bail.
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