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Motion filed to dismiss Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith from lawsuit over inmate death

Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith (
Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith (
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Attorneys for Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith filed a motion Monday afternoon to dismiss Smith in his official capacity from a federal lawsuit over the death of inmate Anthony Mitchell.

Sheriff Smith along with a number of employees at the Walker County sheriff's office and jail and contracted medical care providers employed by QCHC, Inc. are named in the lawsuit.

The filing states that it is "well established that Sheriff Smith is a State Constitutional Officer." His attorneys argue Smith is entitled to "absolute immunity from all claims for damages brought against him in his official capacity pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution."

Defense attorneys for the sheriff and his staff also filed a response to an amended complaint filed by the estate of Anthony Mitchell.

In those filings, defendants admit Mitchell was tased and handcuffed and laid on the floor for a period of time. The defendants also claim that Mitchell was dragged across the floor "because he was combative and refused to walk."

But the defendants in the case deny that Mitchell was denied access to medical care and mental health care or that they intentionally blew cold air into Mitchell's cell. Mitchell was not "subjected to frigid temperatures," according to the court filing.

Plaintiff's attorneys have alleged that Mitchell was kept nude in a holding cell and was "visibly soiled with feces."

The lawsuit contends Mitchell was only taken to the shower or bathroom six times and his cell cleaned four times over the two week time period.

It is further alleged that Mitchell was denied water for 70 hours prior to his death. The lawsuit accused jail staff of deliberate indifference to Mitchell's declining health and medical needs.

Mitchell was initially booked in the jail January 12th. The lawsuit claims after January 15th he had no blanket, no mat to sleep on, and no clothes.

The defendants contend Mitchell was not given a cloth uniform because it would have risked his safety and that he was instead given a different uniform due to his condition.

The lawsuit alleges medical staff did not examine Mitchell until January 26th. A note in the jail medical records states "unable to perform medical intake. Patient remains uncooperative and combative. Jail staff does not feel safe removing inmate from cell for medical at this time."

SEE ALSO: Anthony Mitchell wrongful death case

SEE ALSO: Whistleblower in jail death case fired

According to the filing, the mental health professional at the jail was also not able to get access to Mitchell to provide treatment. They tried to do an intake twice.

On January 17th, the mental health practitioner notes Mitchell appears to be more coherent and has a logical conversation. But it is hard to communicate through the jail cell door.

The mental health practitioner tries to interview Mitchell again on the 24th, but jail staff is unwilling to remove him from his cell due to "continued combative behavior."

Defense attorneys contend "Mitchell rubbed feces on himself and feces in his cell because Mitchell would rub it in cell and attack officers to prevent them from entering the cell," according to court documents.

When Mitchell was examined by medical staff the day before he died, jail records indicate Mitchell was "cool to the touch" in his cell and that they were unable to obtain a blood pressure. One nurse noting Mitchell was "asleep in the fetal position, difficult to arouse."

It is disputed between the defendants whether jail staff was told by medical staff that Mitchell could be taken to the hospital when the next shift arrived or whether an ambulance should be called immediately.

In a response filed by an attorney for Nurse Practitioner Aleisha Herron, it is stated that Herron ordered Mitchell sent to the hospital by ambulance immediately around 4:30 a.m. It is also alleged that Nurse Brad Allred was told on the 6:00 a.m. shift that an ambulance had been called by jail staff.

Herron and Allred are employees of QCHC, Inc. The company is the contracted medical care provider with Walker County.

It was hours later around 9 a.m. before Mitchell was taken to the Walker Baptist Hospital where he died on January 26, 2023.

It was noted in hospital medical files that Mitchell's internal body temperature was 72 degrees when he arrived. A doctor reported "there was never any purposeful movement or response to pain" by Mitchell.

When secretly recorded video of Mitchell being carried out of the jail appearing lifeless surfaced, the story gained widespread attention. Protests of the sheriff's office and calls for Sheriff Nick Smith to resign followed.

The lawsuit alleges the Walker County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer, TJ Armstrong, intentionally mislead the media after Mitchell died. Armstrong told ABC 3340 News Mitchell was "alert and conscious" when he left the jail.

The FBI and Alabama State Bureau of Investigation are investigating Mitchell's death. An autopsy report is not complete according to the sheriff.

Mitchell was initially arrested after a family member called the Walker County Sheriff's office for a welfare check.

Mitchell's family said they were worried about his drug addiction and declining mental and physical condition following his father's death. The sheriff's office says Mitchell fired a gun at a deputy which lead to his arrest.

Mitchell died fourteen days later after what family attorneys call "horrendous conditions" in a feces contaminated cell.

ABC 3340 News has investigated a number of deaths at the Walker County Jail. There have been three under Sheriff Smith including Mitchell's death. There were nine under his predecessor, Sheriff Jim Underwood.

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