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Jury Awards 4.5M in Eureka Police Beating Death

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

The family of a Eureka Police beating victim was awarded $4.5 million on Friday.

Three officers from the Northern California city were accused of using excessive force and ignoring Martin Cotton's medical needs. He died in a Humboldt County jail cell just hours after participating in a violent altercation with police.

Those officers were also ordered to pay an additional $75,000 to Cotton's family.

The lawsuit stems from an August 2007 incident at the Eureka Rescue Mission. High on LSD, Martin Cotton had reportedly resisted arrest, notes the Times-Standard. Witnesses say he was subdued with pepper spray, batons, kicks and punches.

No medical examination was provided prior to being placed in a cell. He died later that evening from a subdural hematoma due to blunt force trauma.

A federal jury found that the officers implicated in the Eureka police beating used excessive force. They were also found to have been "deliberately indifferent" to Cotton's injuries, reports the paper.

Inmates are constitutionally entitled to medical treatment for serious conditions. A prison can be held liable if it acts deliberately indifferent, or reckless, towards those needs.

A severely beaten arrestee probably has some serious injuries--including internal bleeding. The jury must have felt that this particular altercation warranted medical intervention, and the prison acted recklessly by not providing care.

As a result of the Eureka police beating verdict, the local police department will likely change its policies. It was also found negligent for not training officers to seek medical attention when arrestees are subject to force.

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