Colorado County Pays $30K To Settle Jail Suicide Suit

June 14, 2013

Elko County has agreed to a $30,000 settlement with the estate of a 49-year-old Colorado man who hanged himself at the county jail while being held on drug charges in June 2010.

James Duhon told jail employees he was a heroin addict and suffering withdrawals, his lawyers said in a lawsuit. But they say he didn’t receive the necessary constant monitoring despite jail records showing he was allowed medical treatment and placed in an isolation cell “for observation purposes due to a risk of further health and psychiatric problems, including risk of suicide.”

Duhon was attending the Elko Motorcycle Jamboree when he was stopped for having his handlebars set too high. In addition to drug possession, officers learned that Duhon was wanted on multiple felony warrants in El Paso County, Colo.

Four days after he was jailed, he hanged himself with strips he tore from a bed sheet in part of his cell not visible to a surveillance camera, then-Sheriff Dale Lotspeich said.

Duhon’s estate originally filed a lawsuit seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

The Elko Daily Free Press reported that county commissioners approved the settlement Thursday.

County prosecutors cleared the sheriff’s office of any criminal wrongdoing related to the suicide in September 2010, but the incident prompted changes in surveillance policies at the jail.

Sheriff Jim Pitts said deputies now check on inmates more frequently. He said the jail also is working to upgrade its camera security system.

“We’re doing the best we can for everyone’s safety in and out of the jail,” Pitts said.

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