Jailers knew he was suicidal. Lawsuit accuses them of letting inmate hang himself

A cell in Fresno County Jail.
A cell in Fresno County Jail. Fresno Bee file

Fresno County has been hit with a federal civil rights lawsuit in connection with the death of 22-year-old inmate who committed suicide by hanging himself in the downtown Fresno jail last year.

The wrongful death lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Fresno, accuses correctional officers and Corizon Health Inc., which provides mental health and medical services to jail inmates, with negligence in the death of John Jizay Mayberry, who was once classified “as a high suicide risk.”

Mayberry was being held on charges of suspicion of attempted robbery, assault with a semiautomatic firearm and residential burglary, as well as a probation violation, court records say.

The lawsuit was filed by Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris on behalf of Mayberry’s mother, Wilma Deloney, 43, of Fresno.

The jail is under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office. Spokesman Tony Botti said the office does not comment on pending litigation.

Correctional officers found Mayberry around 1:30 a.m. Aug. 2, 2016, alone in his cell, where he had tried to hang himself.

Corizon Health spokeswoman Martha Harbin said: “Due to active litigation and patient privacy we are unable to specifically comment on this case. However, we emphasize that the existence of a lawsuit is not indicative of quality of care or wrongdoing. Medical malpractice lawsuits are a fact of life for U.S. health-care providers, particularly those who serve the incarcerated population, which is disproportionately litigious.”

Sheriff’s officials said Mayberry had been in the jail since March 8, 2016, awaiting trial. Correctional officers found him around 1:30 a.m. Aug. 2, 2016, alone in his cell, where he had tried to hang himself. An ambulance rushed Mayberry to Community Regional Medical Center, where he was declared dead after being taken off life support.

The lawsuit gives Burris’ account of Mayberry’s death:

From March 11 to Aug. 2, 2016, Mayberry was moved around from isolation housing to safety housing to lockdown housing “as a result of his being deemed a threat to the safety of himself and others.”

Because Mayberry had been in jail before, correctional officers and medical and mental health staff should have know that Mayberry “was suicidal on multiple occasions at the Fresno County Jail.” In fact, Mayberry was previously classified as a high suicide risk, the lawsuit says.

Mayberry was previously classified as a high suicide risk, lawsuit says.

On the day of Mayberry’s death, he was in the administrative segregation unit, “but not under heightened watch to protect against risk of suicide,” the lawsuit says.

Burris contends in the lawsuit that correctional staff did not conduct actual checks on Mayberry for an extended period of time, which allowed Mayberry to hang himself. “With deliberate indifference, all defendants failed to take necessary, proper, or adequate measures” in order to prevent the suicide, the lawsuit says.

Burris also contends the defendants were either untrained or improperly trained. “The lack of adequate supervisorial training demonstrates the existence of an informal custom or policy of promoting, tolerating and/or ratifying with deliberate indifference the continuing neglect supervision of inmates,” the lawsuit says.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts