Suit documents suicidal jail inmate’s diary: ‘I will call these my death notes’

September 27, 2017
Gregory Michaux Jr.

Quotations from a 104-page notebook with dozens of references to a Washington County jail inmate’s intent to commit suicide are part of a suit filed this week in U.S. District Court.

Attorney Noah Geary, who represents survivors of Gregory Michaux Jr., asserts the inmate’s notebook documents many suicide attempts and “evidences a human being … who was in dire need of immediate and serious medical care for his mental illness and suicidality. It is tragic and extremely painful to read.”

Michaux, 38, of Clarksville, was awaiting trial on aggravated assault and other charges Sept. 26, 2015, in the jail’s secured housing unit when he hanged himself with a bedsheet.

“I will call these my death notes,” Michaux wrote. “I just hope God ain’t mad at me cuz I get nervous about hanging myself. I just wanna pray it’s painless. I don’t want to suffer.”

He also wrote about his attempts to kill himself, “Why do I keep failing at this? It can’t be that hard to die! … The sheet ripped … I can’t even kill myself right. I been tryin how long now?”

The notes, Geary contends, “establish that numerous bedsheets were torn by Michaux during suicide attempts,” which jail personnel retrieved when exchanging them for new sheets, but they “exhibited deliberate indifference” to his serious medical needs. Michaux was in the jail since March 23 of that year.

Bringing suit are Jason and Janaye Michaux, co-administrators of Michaux’s estate. Michaux’s obituary listed them as his brother and daughter, respectively.

Named as defendants in the suit are former warden John Temas; correctional officers Schultz, Gray and Blednick, and Capt. King, all listed as first names unknown; two nurses; plus a counselor and deputy warden, identified only as Jane Doe and John Doe, respectively.

Temas retired in June 2016.

According to the lawsuit, the correctional officers failed to notify medical staff or their superiors Michaux was suicidal, and the nurses and jail counselor failed to get proper medication and appropriate consultations with physicians. Geary also maintains jail administrators failed in the same capacities and neither did they supervise or monitor the guards, nurses and counselor on Michaux’s behalf.

“The staff of the Washington County Correctional Facility, as well as any contracted-with medical providers, had a duty to provide for the care of all pre-trial detainees and inmates in the facility, including Michaux. ‘Care’ means medical care, which includes” physical, mental, psychological and psychiatric care, Geary wrote in the complaint.

Geary cited two other suicides at the jail, one seven months before Michaux’s death and one three weeks afterward, which, in his complaint against Temas, he deemed “a custom and practice of tolerating and not disciplining correctional officers who exhibited deliberate indifference to suicidality of pre-trial detainees and inmates,” which Geary said violated Michaux’s civil and constitutional rights.

He requested a jury trial to obtain compensatory and punitive damages, funeral expenses, interest, costs and attorney’s fees.

The attorney representing the jail staff, Paul D. Krepps of Pittsburgh, was, according to his voicemail message, trying a case in federal court that is expected to last through mid-October. He did not immediately return a call for comment.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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