Detention center lawsuit in early stages


Legal proceedings related to the death of Demerious Jones while in custody at the Lincoln Parish Detention Center are scheduled to continue today.

A lawsuit filed alleging LPDC staff allowed Jones to die from diabetic ketoacidosis without providing sufficient medical treatment remains in its early stages and is likely to take some time to litigate.

First reported by Caleb Daniels of the Ruston Daily Leader, the suit filed Jones’s mother, Franequa Jones, against the LPDC, its governing commission, two licensed practical nurses, and fifteen unnamed detention center deputies, claims their deliberate indifference and negligence led to Demerious Jones’s death.

U. S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty previously instructed attorneys in the case to meet and develop a case management plan on February 10 before potentially moving on to discovery.

Discovery is the process of sharing information, including documents, between the attorneys who filed the suit and those representing parish and detention center officials. It is likely to include the taking of depositions from numerous current and former detention center employees and may extend for months.

Jones was booked into the LPDC on September 16, 2021, on three counts of violation of misdemeanor probation. Detention Center records show Jones had been booked previously on charges of theft, simple criminal damage to property, vehicle theft, battery of a health care professional, and unauthorized entry.

The 42-page complaint in the lawsuit filed in the federal court of the Western District of Louisiana includes timestamped images from LPDC surveillance cameras allegedly showing Jones’s deteriorating condition over a period of days until he died on September 24.

The plaintiff in the case, Jones’s mother, died soon after the suit was filed, but another family member has been added in her place to continue the case. The Townsley Law Firm of Lake Charles represents the plaintiff.

Most Louisiana parish detention facilities are operated by the parish sheriff, but by state law, the LPDC is run by a commission. The Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission approved a cooperative endeavor agreement in 2013 for the sheriff’s office to run the facility. The suit does not name the sheriff’s office as a defendant.

Current commission members are Lincoln Parish Sheriff Stephen Williams, Ruston Police Chief Steve Rogers, Third Judicial District Attorney John Belton, Lincoln Parish Police Jury President Richard Durrett, and Police Juror Sharyon Mayfield. Commission members have not commented publicly on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the negligence leading to the death was due to the “customs, policies, patterns, and practices” established, encouraged or condoned by the commission.

The suit alleges two licensed practical nurses at the LPDC showed deliberate indifference by ignoring Jones’s symptoms and high blood glucose readings and failed to administer insulin or send him elsewhere for treatment.

In a response filed in court in November, the LPDC and LPDC Commission denied the allegations. In typical response language, the filing included a statement that “any actions taken by (defendants) were taken by them in good faith and with probable cause, without malice and under laws believed to be constitutional.”

The defendants also claimed “their actions were reasonable, justified, and legally permissible under the circumstances.”

The Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office asked the Northeast Louisiana Sheriff’s Investigative Unit to handle the investigation of Jones’s death.

Seven local sheriffs formed the NLSIU in 2021. Its purpose is to provide outside investigators to examine in-custody deaths and use-of-force cases in each member parish. A team of investigators from outside Lincoln Parish completed its investigation and prepared a report indicating no criminal wrongdoing was found in the inquiry into Jones’s death.

A lawsuit is a statement of allegations from the party filing the action. Governmental agencies, including the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Detention Center Commission, do not typically respond publicly to lawsuits but answer the allegations in legal proceedings.