TEXARKANA, Texas — Lawyers for the plaintiff and defense painted very different pictures for jurors Monday in a civil trial involving a man who claims he was permanently disabled following a brief stay in the Bowie County jail in 2018.
Texarkana lawyer David Carter told the jury of eight that his client, William Scott Jones, was "beaten within an inch of his life" while in the jail from the evening of July 17, 2018, to the afternoon of July 19, 2018. Jones spent 27 days in the hospital after his release from custody.
Texarkana lawyer Paul Miller, who represents LaSalle Corrections, told the jury that Carter's account of how Jones came to need surgery and emergency medical intervention is a "complete fabrication" and blamed William Jones' drug use and medical issues that predated his stay in the jail for his current physical condition.
William Jones currently must wear an ostomy bag as his large intestine was removed during his hospitalization in 2018. Carter told the jury that Jones' current medical bills are in the hundreds of thousands and that care related to the loss of his colon will cause that number to rise in the future.
William Jones was arrested for "walking in the roadway" on the evening of July 17, 2018, after police received a call about a man pulling on the doors of a church. Video of the arrest was played for the jury Monday.
Jones appears to be sweating heavily and tells the arresting officer he is on his way to his sister's home when he is taken into custody. On the way to the jail, Jones can be heard moaning in the back seat of a police SUV and is unsteady on his feet after exiting the vehicle.
Jones does not appear to have any visible injuries, such as a black eye, and there is no force used by police on Jones during the arrest process. Video of Jones in the jail's intake area shows him fall at one point to the floor. Correctional officers use a restraint chair as a makeshift wheelchair to move Jones from intake to a cell in the jail.
The last video footage available shows Jones being moved from his cell to a medical observation cell shortly after 5 a.m. on July 18. The fixed camera footage is silent but a correctional officer with a handheld video camera with audio can be seen recording the transfer of Jones from a regular cell to a medical observation cell.
Jones does not appear to have any visible injuries at that time.
The handheld camera footage and video from inside the medical observation cell, which is equipped with a camera, has been lost. Jones' sister, Melody Jones Dunn, called an ambulance to the Bi-State Justice Building for her brother at the time of his release from jail.
Carter told the jury that despite a call to Texarkana, Texas, police from Dunn on the day of his release from jail and despite a letter to LaSalle from him asking that all video related to Jones' stay in the jail be saved, the video was not preserved.
In his opening statement, Miller told the jury that Carter sent his letter concerning preservation of the video to the wrong address. Carter sent the preservation letter to the Bi-State Justice Building where LaSalle manages a jail on the fourth floor, according to court filings.
Texarkana, Texas, police Sgt. Jeremy Courtney testified that he received an email from an administrative assistant at the department on July 19 regarding Jones. The email indicated that Jones' sister, Melody Jones Dunn, wanted to know if force was used on her brother during his arrest.
"He was delivered to the jail without any visible injuries," Courtney testified.
A videotape of testimony from a LaSalle employee tasked with managing video footage at the jail was played for the jury. In the video, the employee states that he was asked by James McCormick, who was serving as warden of the jail at the time, to view video of Jones during the intake process to determine if any force was used but was not directed to download and preserve video of the rest of Jones' time in the jail including handheld camera footage and footage from a medical observation cell.
Bob Page, who currently serves as a jail administrator and who formerly worked for LaSalle as warden and assistant warden in the Bowie County jail, testified at length regarding jail policies under questioning from Carter and Miller.
McCormick testified briefly late Monday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III put the jury in an evening recess. McCormick's testimony is expected to continue Tuesday morning in Texarkana's downtown federal building.
Carter filed the suit in 2019 in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas. Currently named as defendants are LaSalle, Bowie County, the City of Texarkana, Texas, McCormick and medical staff at the jail.