Mother of inmate who was killed in prison sues warden, guards

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 4:20pm

The mother of an inmate whose death was ruled a homicide is suing the warden and some guards of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.

Jane Luna, mother of Charles Jason Frank Toll, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Nashville Wednesday morning against Riverbend Warden Ricky Bell and nine other prison employees.

Luna claims correctional officers violated her son’s civil rights last August after handcuffing him, pulling him from his jail cell and holding him facedown on the ground by sitting on a shield pressed against his back for more than 10 minutes.

Toll, 33 at the time, was later transported to Metro General Hospital where he was declared dead. The Davidson County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Toll’s death a homicide by “mechanical asphyxia and suffocation” due to “asphyxia during physical restraint.”

Luna is seeking a jury trial and punitive damages as well as compensation for Toll’s death including any suffering he may have endured.

Luna’s complaint states that correctional officers at Riverbend developed a pattern of “intentional, reckless deliberate, indifferent and wanton disregard” to inmates’ rights, and that Bell failed to properly train and supervise the prison guards.

The DOC also attempted to conceal Toll’s cause of death, according to the suit, by stating to Luna as well as to the media that Toll died of “natural causes.”

Tennessee Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the department had concluded its own investigation of Toll’s death and concluded correctional officers followed the department policy in the incident.

“I wonder what kind of policy they have that would allow such a thing to happen,” said attorney David Raybin, who is representing Luna.

Raybin called the DOC policy regarding such jail cell extractions “flawed,” adding, “There is no policy that I know of that would have resulted in this man dying like that.”

Luna’s suit claims one of the guards taunted Toll through a small opening in the solitary confinement cell Toll was in on Aug. 17. After Toll “tossed liquid” at the guard through the opening, the suit states, the guard planned to retaliate with other guards, claiming he’d been “splashed with urine.”

According to the complaint, a “cell extraction team” armed with Taser guns and a Taser shield shackled Toll and dragged him out of his cell and, later, into the prison yard. In the process, guards allegedly shocked Toll with Tasers and held him down with a shield.

Carter said the DOC handed over the results of its investigation to the Davidson County District Attorney General’s Office in January.

Susan Niland, spokeswoman for the DA’s office, said prosecutors are reviewing information they have received so far from both the DOC and the medical examiner’s office, but more information is expected.

Toll was serving a 30-year sentence on aggravated burglary, escape and theft charges resulting from a 2007 conviction in Sumner County, Carter said. He also had prior convictions for aggravated burglary dating back to 1995.

11 Comments on this post:

By: chillyvillain on 2/2/11 at 3:40

A dead inmate. Who really cares. Would you react well if someone threw a cup of urine on you?

By: earlyx on 2/2/11 at 4:00

Of course she is suing. I hope the people her dead beat son robbed turn around and sue her for raising a career criminal..The Officers saved the taxpayers of this state 30 years of expense as far as I am concerned...

By: webster1 on 2/2/11 at 4:50

Reading these comments, you people are dopes. The real reason the US is in decline, glance in the mirror.

By: earlyx on 2/2/11 at 4:55

Clearly, another liberal is on the loose. Webster, do us a favor and hold your head under water..

By: richgoose on 2/2/11 at 6:10

I wonder if it possible for the state and the warden to sue this criminal's mother for turning out such a person as her son?

By: zmania on 2/2/11 at 7:44

You are some sick people. We're talking about a human being, flesh and blood. He was literally tortured to death. These guards and anyone else who aloud this to happen should be charged with murder.
No matter how well we raise our children, its up to them to decide what path to follow in life. There's on;y so much a mother can do.
Reading some of these coments really make me sick. They act like no one in their families have ever been in trouble with the law or strung out on some drug or alcohol.
True this guy was no angel. That doesn't justify how he died. Imagine all the other incidents that happened by the hands of these guards that went unreported, If Toll didn't die, this probably would've been another swept under the rug. They deserve everything they get. Take their freedom, take their money.

By: dwight14 on 2/2/11 at 10:22

heartless cold people..yes he was a no good robber and criminal...but he was sue to if i was her..they were responsible for him...ive worked with mental people who dont know any better than to throw feces and urine on you...guess you think they should be killed too huh...brainless is what u people r...people that make others ashamed to be known to even know ya but wont say it to ur face out of fear that u are sick enough to murder them too for not seeing eye to eye with you and your nazi skinhead ways...

this guy should have been thrown in the hole,not murdered...nevermind..minds as small as your type cant even learn as proven by your own statements..

By: truthtold on 2/3/11 at 4:19

Ask yourself a question. If this man broke in your home and was stealing your property would you have killed him? If he broke into your children homes would you have killed him? Just wondering.

By: treehugger7 on 2/3/11 at 7:49

Thanks, zmania. At least there are a couple sane people commenting. When did all this hate for anyone other than oneself develop? Try a little empathy. Truthtold, I would disable him, not kill. Given the rate of mental illness in TN (and the rest of the world)--what do you expect? I'm pretty sure mental health funds will be cut under Haslam, and we will see more of this. If people could get help early in life, they might stand a chance. But that is not as glamorous as building convention centers or making sure anybody can carry a gun anywhere. We'll see more of this under this administration.

By: dargent7 on 2/3/11 at 8:06

Oh, great. He throws urine and feces on guards, isn't compliant to commands, and what should they do? Apologize that his daddy beat him at age 5?
Who cares what his "issues" are?
It takes a lot of skuffles with the law to land someone in prison. All his charges were pleaded down from the original.
He got half of what he deserved.
He what? He did the crimes against humanity, do the time.
When doing the time, act accordingly.

By: richgoose on 2/4/11 at 4:19

zmania.........If your martyr had not been such a worthless sorry individual he would not have been at Riverbend. He would never have had to be subjected to the learned behavior of these "guards"

It is very hard to have empathy for someone who created their own demise.