Each year, 1 million people are arrested for possession of drugs. Most are sentenced to incarceration and a fine, but a few unlucky people get sentenced to death—not by a judge and jury, but by police officers. That’s what happened to 35-year-old Michigan man William Marshall, who was arrested and died in police custody just four hours later. Marshall’s family recently reached a $3.75 million settlement with the city of Westland, a small consolation for his tragic death.
Marshall was arrested on Dec. 10, 2017, when police pulled him over for suspicion of driving with a suspended license. Officers allegedly found marijuana and cocaine during a search of the vehicle, leading to an arrest. He was booked at the Westland jail and put into a cell, where he would die not long after.
Inmates who witnessed the incident say that Marshall began having a seizure and was clearly in need of medical attention. One cellmate, trying to help, called over the officers on duty and alerted them to Marshall’s distress. The officers called paramedics, who advised officers that Marshall should be taken to Garden City Hospital. But the police sergeant didn’t allow Marshall to leave and instead sent him back to his cell. It’s unclear why the sergeant did not follow the advice of the paramedics or why the sergeant’s decision outweighed the professional opinions of the paramedics.
Jail Staff Allegedly Ignored Marshall’s Pleas for Medical Care
Back in his cell, Marshall continued to beg for help. But instead, officers did the unthinkable: witness Juston Delaforce says he saw officers kick Marshall’s hands when he tried to grasp the cell bars and beat him while he laid helpless on his stomach.
Soon, Marshall became unconscious. Police finally took notice and again called on medical providers for help, more than an hour after Marshall initially became ill and began seizing. However, it was too little, too late: he died just four hours after being arrested.
A toxicology report found that the cause of death was a lethal dose of cocaine. Marshall had apparently swallowed a bag of the drug sometime between being arrested and being placed in the cell. Although there’s no guarantee that doctors could have saved him if he had been brought to the hospital, we’ll never know, because officers allowed him to suffer rather than get him medical attention quickly.
Marshall left behind three daughters, one of whom turned 16 a week after he died. He also left behind a son, who turned 15 the day before his funeral, and his fiancé, Kaliece Simms. His brother, Demon Marshall, told reporters that “he was a caring man” and a “loving father and a loving son.”
Legal Team Secures a Settlement for the Family
Thankfully, the community didn’t let Marshall’s death go unnoticed. In the weeks after he passed away, people gathered to protest at the Westland Police Department and demand answers. Two of the paramedics who attended to Marshall also left their positions, one voluntarily and one by termination.
The Marshall family also sought justice through the legal system. Their attorneys filed a successful lawsuit on their behalf, reaching a $3.75 million settlement with the city of Westland several months after Marshall’s death. The city will pay $250,000, while the remaining $3.5 million will come from Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority, the city’s insurance company. The settlement was approved by the Wayne County Probate Court and Westland City Council before it was made public. Although no amount of money will bring Marshall back, we’re happy that his family has been able to find some justice.
Michigan Jails Have History of Neglect
Westland isn’t the only Michigan jail that has faced lawsuits for inmate deaths in the past few months. To the north in Midland, MI, the family of 56-year-old Jack Marden reached a $500,000 settlement with the county after Marden died in jail. Marden had a history of heart problems and depression, and he became restless after a meeting with a mental health care provider. Officers restrained him with a type of mask called a spit hood, which made it difficult for him to breathe. He began having breathing problems and was taken to the hospital, where he died from acute respiratory failure two days later.
Just on the other side of Detroit in Macomb, 18 inmates have died in the county jail since 2012. Seven lawsuits have been filed as a result, both against the jail and Correct Care Solutions, the private company that provides health care to inmates. The plaintiffs include the family of Jennifer Myer, a 37-year-old woman who died when she was 10 days into a 30-day sentence for failing to pay child support. The cause of death was a viral infection that turned into sepsis, a serious condition that needs to be treated right away. Allegedly, officers and jail nurses ignored Myers’ requests for help until it was too late.
Less than a year later, David Stojcevski died while serving the same sentence for the same violation. Nurses did not give him his prescribed medication and he began going through acute withdrawal. Video shows Stojcevski seizing naked on the floor of his jail cell while nurses and officers appear to do nothing. However, so far his famiy has not gotten the closure they deserve. Just months ago, the Department of Justice announced that no criminal charges would be filed in Stojcevski’s death, citing the results of an FBI investigation.
Marshall, Marden, Myer and Stojcevski didn’t need to die. But because of the alleged treatment—or lack of it—they received at the hands of jail officers and medical providers, they lost their lives unnecessarily. Inmates in Michigan and across the country have received the same fate. If one of your loved ones has died while serving jail time, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us today to learn about your legal options.