Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards and Warden Stuart Murphy failed to protect prisoner Tommy Joe Smith (40) from being beaten to death by a dozen other inmates last year in an attack that an eyewitness compared to a "shark feeding frenzy," a federal lawsuit claims. Relatives of Smith filed the lawsuit Tuesday (January 9, 2017).
Smith was jailed in January, 2017 for a probation violation stemming from his 2015 conviction for a sex crime that isn't specified in the suit. Staff at the parish jail in Amite didn't segregate Smith from violent prisoners even though they knew his criminal history increased his risk of being attacked, the suit claims. The suit says 12 inmates attacked Smith about 1:45 a.m. on January 31, 2017, shortly after he was confined in a two-tier dormitory housing roughly 21 inmates. A coroner concluded Smith died of blunt force trauma to the head with bleeding in his brain. "Smith's family was advised by the funeral home that due to the extent and severity of the damage to Smith's head, an open casket would not be possible," the suit says.
The suit, filed in the Eastern District of Louisiana, seeks unspecified damages. A great-grandmother and mother of Smith's two children are named as plaintiffs.