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Family could get $1.7 million settlement after suicide in County Jail

Devin Lynch | Cook County sheriff's office

The family of a former Marine who hanged himself while being held in Cook County Jail is set to receive a $1.7 million settlement from the Cook County Board on Thursday, after the relatives argued the Afghanistan War veteran should have been more closely monitored.

The settlement was approved by the Finance Committee Wednesday and will come before the full Board of Commissioners at their Thursday meeting.

In 2016, Devin Lynch, 26, was booked into the jail Feb. 6 for aggravated criminal sexual assault in Chicago, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office. Police said the incident was domestic-related.

Lynch suffered from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder after a tour in Afghanistan. He’d also attempted suicide twice before he was taken into custody and processed at the jail — one of those attempts came the day before he was processed.

Because of his medical history, Lynch was supposed to be assigned to an “Intermediate Mental Health” living unit, also known as a “psych tier” with a guard who was supposed to monitor Lynch closely because of his mental health history, according to the family’s complaint.

The officer didn’t, said Thomas Morrissey, who represented Lynch’s family in the case. The officer hadn’t received psych training and didn’t check on the detainees every 30 minutes as required.

During one of the security checks the officer did perform on March 22, he left a utility closet unlocked. Within hours, Lynch hanged himself in that closet, according to the complaint in the case. The officer didn’t find Lynch until more than two hours after he left the closet unlocked.

“The record reflects he never got up from his desk, and there’s also video that reflects that, after opening storage closet, he never got up, he never did his 30 minute checks despite him saying he did,” Morrissey said.

Cara Smith, Sheriff Tom Dart’s policy chief, cast the narrative differently. Lynch was assigned to a detox tier because “that’s where he needed to be. We believe he was properly classified and on detox tier. His behavior and stability was such that he was a tier worker.”

Smith pointed to two phone calls Lynch made that afternoon and early evening to his former girlfriend and mother “that were upsetting to him and precipitated him taking this drastic action.”

“It was a very unfortunate matter … there was no indication prior to this that he had any intention of doing so. We took no position on the case because we thought it was triable, and the county chose to settle. We must never forget these are taxpayer dollars.”

Finance Committee Chairman John Daley said the Board approved a few settlements for over $1 million for medical malpractice claims so far this year and a $23.9 million wrongful conviction settlement in January.

“The facts of this case were presented to members of the Board’s Litigation Subcommittee and they approved the settlement,” Daley said in a statement. “The Sheriff’s Office has agreed to implement changes to ensure another tragic incident like this does not occur at the jail.”

Morrissey said Lynch served his country for six years and was in the reserves at the time of his death.

“Whether [the settlement] is enough, who knows — it can’t bring him back,” Morrissey said.