Prosecutors Consider Felony Charges In Milwaukee Jail Inmate’s Death

Charges Against Jail Staff Possible In Terrill Thomas's April Death

Milwaukee County Courthouse
Sharan Mohandoss (CC-BY)

New court documents show Milwaukee County prosecutors are considering felony charges against jail staff on duty when an inmate died of dehydration.

Thirty-eight-year-old Terrill Thomas was incarcerated at the downtown Milwaukee jail when he died in April 2016. Other inmates told investigators the water was shut off to Thomas’ cell after he had flooded a previous cell.

The Journal Sentinel reports a motion filed this week is the first indication from prosecutors that felony abuse or neglect charges are under consideration. Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley wrote in the motion that the law must strictly require jailors to safeguard lives in their care and that “stupidity, thoughtlessness, indifference and incompetence” are not valid legal defenses.

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Prosecutors are asking for an inquest in which a jury would hear testimony and make a recommendation, which would only be advisory.

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