State settles lawsuit in prison death


CARSON CITY - Before the state Board of Examiners awarded $450,000 to the mother of an inmate who died in prison, board members were told he died from an adverse reaction to an anti-psychotic drug he was given forcibly by guards.

What never was mentioned at the public meeting was that Jamie Kline's death certificate called his demise a homicide.

Kline's mother, North Las Vegas resident Evelyn Johnson, said he was killed by prison guards and would still be alive if he had not been treated so harshly.

"I just wanted people to know the truth," Johnson said Thursday. "Jamie died because of the struggle they put him through. We need guards to take care of our prisoners, but guards have to be responsible. They have children, too. You don't want that to happen to your children, so why do it to mine?"

The 45-year-old Kline was serving a 15-year sentence in the Northern Nevada Correctional Center for a burglary and grand larceny conviction.

Kline died in November 2009 after serving 2½ years of his sentence.

The state settled with Johnson after she filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Corrections.

Theodore Parker, Johnson's Las Vegas lawyer, said the state would not have awarded $450,000 if the guards had not done something wrong.

Kline "literally was strangled to death by the correctional officers" when a group of guards held him down to administer the drug, Parker said.

"A blanket was thrown over his head so he could not breathe. One 300-pound guard sat on his face. I would say the conditions of his death were far less benign than what you were told."

After the Review-Journal published a story about the June settlement, Johnson twice called the newspaper to complain about the account Deputy Attorney General Alicia Lerud gave to the board of Gov. Brian Sandoval, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller.

At the hearing, Lerud said the state might have to pay Johnson as much as $3.5 million if the state lost its case at trial.

Only Sandoval posed any questions, asking whether Johnson's legal fees were part of the settlement and whether the state would be released from future claims if it approved the settlement, according to minutes of the Board of Examiners' meeting.

Lerud told the governor the legal fees were included in the settlement.

None of the board members questioned the circumstances of Kline's death.

A spokeswoman for Miller said the secretary was aware that Kline died of "unnatural causes or homicide."

Neither Masto or Sandoval made comments Thursday.

Lerud refused Wednesday to say why she did not tell the board at the hearing about the coroner's finding on Kline's death.

Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong said his office investigated the death with the office of the inspector general in the attorney general's office.

The inspector general determined that no charges would be filed against the prison guards.

Furlong said it "sounds shocking" that Kline's death was ruled a homicide. But he said that the cause of death for someone who was executed under the state's death penalty also would be ruled a homicide.

"I assume in this case they were required to administer medication, and by making it happen it resulted in his death," Furlong said. "The people were trying to do the right thing."

The sheriff said it often is difficult for his officers to administer medication to inmates in the Carson City Jail.

Furlong said he sometimes asks for help from the Department of Corrections.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

 

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