The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 28, 2013

Mother sues over son's death at Jasper County Jail

JOPLIN, Mo. — A Joplin woman has filed a lawsuit asserting that her 43-year-old son died last year while in custody at the Jasper County Jail due to being denied the medications that he was on and being left strapped in an emergency restraint chair for at least 21 hours while suffering the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Jane Brown's lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Springfield names Jasper County, 13 current or former jail employees and a doctor and nurse with Complete Quick Care as defendants.

Her son, Richard H. Watson, was reported by the Jasper County sheriff's office to have been found at 5:09 a.m. on Dec. 18 unresponsive inside his cell at the jail. The sheriff's office reported at the time that no foul play was suspected, but an autopsy was ordered.

The lawsuit alleges that when Watson was taken to the jail on Dec. 12, he informed jail staff that he suffered from high blood pressure, back pain, anxiety and depression and had been prescribed about a dozen medications at the time. It was also known by jail staff that he had a history of alcohol abuse, the lawsuit states.

Watson fell at the jail on Dec. 16 and injured his head. Jail staff placed him either that day or the next in an emergency restraint chair, where he was left for at least 21 hours without proper food, water or his medications, the lawsuit alleges. The document states that the chair's manufacturer warns that no one should be left in the chair for more than two hours.

Watson is believed to have died about 4 a.m. on Dec. 18 while still in the chair, the lawsuit states.

The mother's court action further alleges that there are at least four hours missing from a recorded video record of the time Watson spent in the restraint chair.

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