$3.2 million settlement reached in Carter Co. jail death case

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The civil trial in the death of a man who died in the Carter County jail in 2015 came to an end Thursday after the parties reached a $3.2 million settlement, according to sources familiar with settlement negotiations. 

The settlement agreement was reached following the recent discovery of records that were not disclosed prior to trial.

An employee at the Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday afternoon found a key piece of evidence related to Manos’ care at the jail that had not been disclosed before the federal trial, which started on Monday. The record was a medication log from Manos’ stay at the jail that showed he had not been receiving insulin.

The record was located as employees dug through boxes for documents related to other undisclosed inmate deaths after the presiding judge ordered their production on Wednesday.

Manos marked on a jail intake form that he had diabetes, high blood pressure and bipolar disorder, records show. Whether he received his medications while incarcerated had been at the heart of the case.

The eight jurors in the case had already heard plenty of testimony over two days that Manos had been voluntarily refusing his medications and the issue was raised in attorneys’ opening statements. 

Jeanne Bennett, Manos’ mother was at the trial every day  

“No amount of money could replace Ms. Bennett’s only son, and her best friend, Michael,” said Dan Smolen, an attorney for Manos’ estate. “But continuing to go through the trial process, and hearing testimony every day about the unfathomable suffering her son endured in his last days at the Carter County Jail, would have been extremely difficult.        

“In light of all the circumstances, Ms. Bennett felt that settlement was appropriate. Through the litigation process, Ms. Bennett had her questions answered as to what happened to her son. Through this settlement, she feels some measure of justice and closure. Now, she can go on with the rest of her life, resolute that she fought hard for Michael when he could no longer fight for himself.”

Ambre Gooch, an attorney for the Sheriff’s Office, told The Frontier in an email that “evidence detrimental to the case surfaced after the trial began, and to avoid a disastrous result from a jury, the case settled.”

“It should be known that this case arose from inadequacies in the operation of the Carter County Jail during the tenure of former duly elected Sheriff Milton Anthony, and in no way shape or form pertains to the current sheriff or his administration,” Gooch said.

“In fact, the current sheriff has implemented several remedial measures designed to ensure that in the future, the medical needs of inmates will be adequately addressed and tragic deaths, such as the one in this case, will be avoided.”

Michael Manos. Courtesy

U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Shreder, who presided over the case, suggested several times on Thursday that Manos’ estate request a mistrial. 

Manos, 44, died on Nov. 7, 2015, of a condition caused by a blood clot. He also showed signs of dehydration, according to a medical examiner’s report. An honorably discharged Army veteran, Manos long suffered from mental health problems and showed signs of bipolar and schizophrenic disorder, records show. He was also diabetic. He was found in his cell smeared in his own feces when he died.

Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant, in his official capacity, was the defendant in the lawsuit by Manos’ estate, which alleged Manos’ Eighth and 14th Amendment rights were violated. Former Carter County Sheriff Milton Anthony, who was sheriff when Manos died, had previously been dismissed from the lawsuit.

Attorneys for Manos’ estate have said Manos did not get medical treatment at the jail and did not receive life-saving medications that were prescribed to him.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the Sheriff’s Office argued Manos’ death wasn’t caused by deliberate indifference within the Sheriff’s Office, a key standard in civil rights lawsuits. Attorneys had argued that Manos actively refused to take his medication and the jail did not refuse him medical care.

Related reading: 

Carter Co. jail didn’t train staff on medical protocols, former deputy testifies

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Kassie McClung

Staff writer

Kassie McClung joined The Frontier in May 2016. She reports on health, criminal justice and other state issues. Kassie holds a bachelors degree in multimedia journalism from Oklahoma State University. She likes dogs, maps and data. She can be reached at Kassie@readfrontier.com or 918-935-1044. Follow her on Twitter @KassieMcClung.
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