Mother of police killer sues over his death

/ Source: The Associated Press

A convicted police killer died because he was left alone in a sweltering cell after being given powerful medication, his mother said in a lawsuit Monday.

The combination of anti-psychotic drugs and excessive heat killed Farron Barksdale last August just days after his arrival at Kilby prison near Montgomery, according to the federal lawsuit. He was found unconscious with a body temperature of 103.1 degrees.

The suit, filed by Mary Barksdale of Athens, claims prison medical staff should have known that drug makers warn against using anti-psychotic medicines in patients exposed to high temperatures.

The prison is not air-conditioned, and the temperature in Montgomery reached 106 degrees the day Barksdale was found in his cell. He had pleaded guilty to shooting two Athens, Ala., police officers.

Department of Corrections policies state that inmates on such medications should not be exposed to elevated temperatures for extended periods, the lawsuit said.

"I think the department has a good policy with respect to this issue. The problem here is that it was not followed," said an attorney for the family, Sarah Geraghty of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

The suit, filed in federal court in Montgomery, claims corrections officials and medical staff violated Barksdale's civil rights. It seeks an unspecified amount of money.

The Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment on the allegations, but previously defended its treatment of Barksdale, 32.

"My family and I have so many questions about how and why my son died," Mary Barksdale said in a statement. "Nearly every day someone asks me what happened to him, and I still don't have an answer."

The suit, filed by the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights and two Huntsville lawyers, names a prison warden and prison doctors, guards and medical workers.

Barksdale was sentenced to life without parole after he pleaded guilty to shooting Athens police Officer Tony Mims, 40, and Sgt. Larry Russell, 42, on Jan. 2, 2004. The defense argued that Barksdale was a paranoid schizophrenic with a history of mental illness, but doctors found him competent to stand trial.

Barksdale was found unconscious in a one-person cell three days after arriving at Kilby. He was taken to a hospital, where he died Aug. 20.

A state autopsy report indicated excessive heat played a role in his health problems.