Inmate death lawsuit imminent

Mother whose

 

BROWNSVILLE — The mother of a man who was badly beaten by another inmate at the Cameron Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center has retained legal counsel and is planning to sue.

Elizabeth Rosales has retained attorney Eddie Lucio, who on Monday, placed Cameron County on notice that a lawsuit is pending.

Elizabeth Rosales’ son, Carlos Estrada, 41, died at a hospital on July 4 after Joshua James Sosa, 29, allegedly attacked and beat him on July 1.

Sosa, who is charged with murder and aggravated assault and is being held on a $2 million bond, beat Estrada because Estrada had allegedly beaten up and robbed Sosa’s sister, authorities said.

Estrada had been in jail on charges of burglary of a habitation and assault.

In the seven-page letter placing the county on notice of the pending lawsuit, Lucio demands that any and all evidence relevant to Estrada’s death be preserved.

“We hereby demand that you preserve all documents, tangible things and electronically stored information potentially relevant to the issues in this cause,” the letter states.

In demanding the preservation of evidence, Lucio said the county jail has previously been sanctioned in federal court for failing to preserve evidence.

That case involved Fernando Longoria, who died in January 2015 while in solitary confinement. He had been serving a 10-day sentence for a DWI charge at the time of his death.

Three days into the sentence, Longoria suffered a violent seizure. He deteriorated over the next few days before eventually suffering another seizure before dying.

Instead of being taken to the hospital, he was placed in a padded cell.

The sole camera focused on the padded cell where Longoria was held stopped working eight hours prior to the man’s death so there was no visual record of what happened during his final hours, including whether jailers and nurses complied with their required observations.

Longoria’s widow and children were awarded $1 million in a settlement last year and Cameron County agreed to change its policies regarding video record keeping, among other policy changes.

In the notice to sue, Lucio attached a copy of Cameron County’s Preservation of Evidence protocols that were ordered as a result of the Longoria case.

“By now we anticipate that the Cameron County Sheriff’s department may have assumed the responsibility of investigating itself as it has done in the past,” the letter states. “If this is the case, we respectfully request that it videotape all interviews it is conducting of its employees and inmates.”

Lucio also requests that all interviews are recorded.

“The Jail’s video cameras and DVR system have the capacity to record several weeks prior to the incident,” the letter states. “The jail however has a practice of merely preserving the minutes surrounding the incident and not preserving all the relevant video prior to the incident.”

Lucio also wants all cameras in relevant locations examined.

“We request that the Jail use its available resources and preserve all video at all locations from the moment Mr. Estrada walked into the jail to the moment he exited via ambulance,” the letter states.

The letter details specific actions that encompass a wide-range of evidence that may exist from video, the investigative files, to jail logs, to emails and more.

“Should your failure to preserve potentially relevant evidence result in the corruption, loss or delay in production of evidence to which we are entitled, such failure would constitute spoliation of evidence, and we will not hesitate to seek sanctions,” the letter states.

Lucio asks the sheriff’s office to confirm by July 15 that it has preserved evidence relevant to the pending lawsuit.