Family of man who died in Choctaw County Jail files wrongful death lawsuit

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James S. Legros Jr., 29, died on Oct. 29, 2016 in the Choctaw County Jail after being arrested on a public intoxication complaint and spending four days in a holding cell. COURTESY

The family of a New Hampshire man who died in the Choctaw County Jail has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Choctaw County Board of County Commissioners.

James “Jimi” Legros Jr., 29, was found dead in his cell on Oct. 29, 2016 after being arrested just outside of Hugo on a complaint of public intoxication. Legros, who was not given the required psychiatric evaluation during jail booking, hung himself using a blanket that had been given to him by jail staff, according to the State Medical Examiner’s Office.

Legros, who had come to Hugo to work for the Carson and Barnes Circus at the time of his death, was believed by deputies to be under the influence of methamphetamine and possibly “bath salts,” and was placed in an isolation cell, according to records.

Hugo is a town in southeastern Oklahoma of about 5,000 people and located a few miles north of the Red River in Choctaw County. It is one of the poorest counties in the state, according to U.S. Census data, and has among the state’s high rates of unemployment, fatal drug overdoses and poverty.

Legros was held in the jail’s “drunk tank” for four days rather than the usual 48 hours because of his condition, records show.

Choctaw County Sheriff Terry Park told The Frontier that a jailer was later fired for falsifying sight-check documentation just prior to Legros’s death.

However, the Oklahoma Department of Health’s Jail Inspection Division, which is responsible for investigating jail deaths, found no issues with the jail staff’s actions leading up to Legros’s death, though the investigation did not mention the falsified documentation and listed Legros as being booked into the jail and dying on the same day, The Frontier reported earlier this year.

As state agency struggles to monitor jails, investigation raises questions of oversight

The lawsuit against the Choctaw County Board of County Commissioners was filed on Sept. 11 by Legros’s father James Legros Sr., and on behalf of his minor child in Choctaw County District Court. It seeks more than $75,000 in damages.

The suit alleges that Legros was in obvious need of medical assistance during his time at the jail, but that the jailers showed deliberate indifference to his condition or needs.

The suit also alleges the county violated state jail standards by failing to take Legros to a medical facility when it became apparent that his condition was not improving, and failed to put him on suicide watch though it was warranted.

A message left with the Stephen Geries with the law firm Collins, Zorn & Wagner, which represents Choctaw County, was not returned Thursday afternoon.

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Clifton Adcock

Senior Staff Writer

A veteran investigative reporter who has covered eastern Oklahoma for more than 15 years, Clifton joined The Frontier in April 2017. A native of southeastern Oklahoma, he has covered numerous issues from criminal justice to politics for publications including the Tulsa World, the Oklahoma Gazette, and Oklahoma Watch. Clifton holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Clifton can be reached at clifton@readfrontier.com. Follow him on Twitter @cliftonhowze
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