Ohio inmate facing death penalty sues over jail conditions

The inmate says his cell has black mold and that jail staff denied him mental health treatment


Eric Heisig
Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cleveland man facing the death penalty after authorities said he stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death as her children listened in another room said in a recent lawsuit that he is subject to inhumane conditions in the Cuyahoga County Jail.

Markus Hawkins said his cell has black mold and that jail staff denied him mental health treatment, according to a suit filed April 29 in federal court in Cleveland. He also said in his lawsuit, which was handwritten and filed without a lawyer, that food trays smell like feces and that he has to endure extended periods of lockdown in his cell.

Hawkins, 32, is awaiting trial for murder and other charges in the death of 28-year-old Imari Perez on Dec. 18, 2016.

Hawkins broke into Perez’s home about 3 a.m., forced her into a bedroom and locked the door, according to court records. Perez’s three children – then ages 6, 10 and 11 – were also in the house.

One of the children saw Hawkins force the mother into the bedroom, and all three children heard screams coming from the room, authorities said.

He has been in jail since November 2017, following his arrest by the U.S. Marshals Service.

The lawsuit says Hawkins developed depression in his first few months in jail because of fighting with inmates and no action by corrections officers, who he claimed said “just make sure you close the door."

He also said an officer attacked him and he was told to keep quiet about it. The suit also says that staff denied a request to change cells when the toilets overflowed.

“This action here is my very deep and intense cry for help as I feel like I’m in a 3rd world prison fighting for survival with minimal chance of surviving,” Hawkins wrote.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, former jail director Ken Mills, Sheriff Clifford Pinkney, Associate Warden Eric Ivey, as well as former county IT administrator Emily McNeeley and Chief Talent Officer Douglas Dykes are all named as defendants in the case.

The lawsuit comes months after the U.S. Marshals Service issued a report that said investigators found “inhumane” and unconstitutional conditions in the jail, including an understaffed crew of corrections officers and inadequate access to medical and mental health care.

Since then, Mills and Ivey have faced criminal charges. Dykes and McNeeley were criminally charged as part of a corruption probe into the county, though their charges have nothing to do with the jail.

Hawkins is seeking to be “rightfully compensated” as well as to be immediately released.

A county spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Hawkins’ lawsuit is one of several inmates have filed over jail conditions. Lawyers representing several inmates also filed suit in December, and them and attorneys for the county have talked about trying to settle the case without a trial.

Attorneys for the county and the inmates discussed a number of issues in a conference last week before a federal judge last week. One issue involved the possibility of hiring of an expert approved by both sides who could review jail workings and make recommendations.

The attorneys said they would pursue a settlement based on those recommendations, according to an order issued Thursday.

Another handwritten lawsuit filed by Loren Young on April 22 seeks $650,000 for complaints similar to the ones in Hawkins’ suit.

Young, who is serving a two-year prison sentence for attempted felonious assault in the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut, said he passed out in court in June 2017 and was taken to Lutheran Hospital. A doctor suggested he follow up with a neurologist within 24 hours because of a head injury but a sheriff’s deputy took him back to jail and took away his hospital papers, according to his lawsuit.

He said he has continued to have medical issues and has not seen a neurologist.

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©2019 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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