Elko Jail settles inmate suicide case for $30K

2013-06-11T16:41:00Z Elko Jail settles inmate suicide case for $30KBy DYLAN WOOLF HARRIS — dharris@elkodaily.com Elko Daily Free Press

ELKO — The county agreed to pay a $30,000 settlement Thursday related to a 2010 jail suicide.

The estate of James Allen Duhon sued the sheriff’s office and Elko County claiming jail staff were negligent in monitoring the 49-year-old Colorado inmate, who was found hanging in his cell.

Police pulled Duhon over during the 2010 Motorcycle Jamboree because his motorcycle handlebars were set higher than his shoulders. When an officer ran Duhon’s name, he linked the suspect to two out-of-state fugitive from justice warrants and issued an arrested.

At the Elko County Jail, officers searched Duhon and found a glass pipe and 1.7 grams of methamphetamine, according to police.

Duhon told jail employees he was an addict and was suffering heroin withdrawals. The jail allowed medical treatment and placed him in an isolation cell “for observation purposes due to a risk of further health and psychiatric problems, including risk of suicide,” the plaintiff complaint states.

While in isolation, monitoring and supervision was supposed to be constant, the plaintiffs alleged.

Four days after his arrest, jail staff found Duhon hanging in his isolation cell from a piece of bed sheet looped over a pipe.

After Duhon’s death, then-sheriff Dale Lotspeich told the Free Press the inmate hadn’t threatened suicide.

In September 2010, then-district attorney Gary Woodbury declined to file any criminal charges related to the incident, citing a lack of evidence of criminal neglect.

Duhon’s estate filed a civil suit in June 2012 against Sheriff Jim Pitts and Elko County — though Pitts wasn’t sheriff at the time of the suicide — seeking general damages in a sum exceeding $75,000 and special damages of the same amount. The plaintiff also sought attorney’s fees and any other relief deemed appropriate.

The sides struck a deal before the matter went to trial, and the county commission approved the $30,000 settlement Thursday. The county has a $25,000 insurance deductible.

In 2010, Lotspeich said the department would review its monitoring practices to ensure greater inmate safety.

Pitts said the jail changed policy before he was elected sheriff to check on inmates more frequently. He also said the jail is working to upgrade its camera system.

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

Attorneys from either party were unable to be reached for comment before press time.

Copyright 2015 Elko Daily Free Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. DEBoyd
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    DEBoyd - June 16, 2013 4:23 pm
    You're are going to cut yourself on that axe if you're not more careful.
  2. NVCowboy1
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    NVCowboy1 - June 12, 2013 7:23 am
    The age of 30?? Try knocking that back about 12 years. One is legally considered to be an adult at the age of 18. If you can make the choice to die for your country, then you are an adult.
  3. Cubs Fan
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    Cubs Fan - June 12, 2013 7:12 am
    Hey Mary208. The last time I checked, the sheriff's department runs the jail, not the PD. They are separate entities. Also, the person whom you referred to that was guilty of incest is a FORMER officer. Sounds to me like when the PD realized they had a rotten apple, they tossed it out. Not that it matters because it's totally irrelevant to this story. Just a cheap shot from someone who apparently has an ax to grind with the cops.
  4. RBlakeH
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    RBlakeH - June 11, 2013 11:14 pm
    The man was wanted by another state for warrants. How about his responsibility for obeying the law. We are better off without this dopping law breaker. His family should have had to pay instead.
  5. Mary208
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    Mary208 - June 11, 2013 8:08 pm
    If you actually understood the purpose of laws themselves you would know that drugs are illegal because they are deadly to society. "The addict" is part of society, too. The reason he was arrested and charged is ultimately for his own protection. It's no secret that being jailed is a traumatic experience for most and suicide attempts are common. Quit excusing the status quo of jail personnel whose actions contributed to an innocent man's death.
  6. JDMO
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    JDMO - June 11, 2013 3:00 pm
    "The plaintiff claimed jail staff failed to monitor Duhon, who was suffering from drug withdrawal." I'm not a fan of dopers; agree that this guy should have had the decency to off himself on his own time. LE removes us from the street for most anything these days; we now become their responsibility. Think of this: your 18 yr. kid gets busted for public urination, or MIC. Goes to jail. You want that kid monitored, right? Ugly things happen to good people who make bad decisions.
  7. Yahooligan
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    Yahooligan - June 11, 2013 8:59 am
    Last I checked, at the age of 30 one is considered an adult. How about some personal responsibility for the drug addict that made the choice to use drugs and made the choice to end his own life?
    The fact that this guy ended his own life is no one's fault but his own. Including the actions of a child molester into a conversation about this addict's responsibility for his own actions is irrelevant; unless of course he was molesting a child while on duty the night this idiot killed himself. Got it?
  8. badger
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    badger - June 10, 2013 7:50 pm
    Perhaps addiction (and mental illness) should be treated as a medical condition, in a hospital and not in (the notorious Elko County) jail.
  9. Mary208
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    Mary208 - June 10, 2013 7:28 pm
    You are paying for the stupidity of your own police department. Isn't there some slogan about serving and *protecting* (when they aren't engaged in incest with underage family members, that is ) ? If you are sworn to *protect* then you must protect them. Got it ?
  10. Yahooligan
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    Yahooligan - June 10, 2013 1:48 pm
    Let me get this straight... the guy was on drugs, wound up getting himself arrested and hung himself. Why is this anyone's fault but his own? So because the guy happened to kill himself in a jail cell instead of waiting until he got home to do it, the county has to pay his family $30k?! Absolutely ridiculous. So the rest of us pay for his stupidity.
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