Death of Inmate After Scuffle with Guards Ruled Homicide - The Chicago Criminal Law Blog

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Death of Inmate After Scuffle with Guards Ruled Homicide

The Cook County medical examiner’s office has ruled the death of Eugene Gruber, an inmate at Lake County Jail, a homicide. Gruber was paralyzed as a result of spinal injuries he sustained during an altercation with the jail’s staff. On March 3, he died of pneumonia resulting from paraplegia, the Chicago Tribune reports.

As a result of the medical examiner’s findings, the Lake County state’s attorney’s office has requested the appointment of a special prosecutor to review the investigation and determine whether charges should be brought against the jail’s staff members.

On Oct. 31 2011, Gruber was brought into the jail after being arrested for disorderly conduct and trespassing. Jail staff members claim Gruber was drunk and combative during the intake process. According to the state’s attorney’s report, the guards then pepper sprayed Gruber and used a “take-down” measure that twisted the inmate’s neck.

Over the next day, Gruber complained that he couldn’t feel his legs. The jail’s staff did not take Gruber to the hospital until a day later. Doctors found that Gruber was paralyzed from a broken neck and performed two surgeries. Four months later, Gruber died from pneumona resulting from the paralysis.

Homicide is defined as the killing of one person by another. It’s important to note, however, that not all homicides are crimes, such as killings that occur in self-defense. While there are several different types of homicide, the staff members responsible for Gruber’s condition would most likely be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another person without criminal intent or by accident. Generally, prosecutors must show that the defendant acted recklessly, or well beyond the behavior of a reasonable person under the circumstances. In this case, it would have to be shown that the staff members were reckless in using grossly excessive force to subdue Gruber.

Eugene Gruber’s sister has filed a civil suit against the county and Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran. Curran is currently reviewing the incident to determine whether the jail’s staff handled the situation in accordance with policy.

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