Jury trial begins in civil lawsuit filed against Brown County deputies in inmate’s death

WARNING: Story, video contain graphic material
Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 6:50 PM EDT
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BROWN COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - The jury trial in the lawsuit filed against Brown County deputies in the death of inmate Zachary Goldson is underway.

Goldson died on Oct. 5, 2013, shortly after entering the Brown County Jail.

The deputies, who were with Goldson that night, were never indicted on any criminal charges.

However, his sister filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit alleging the deputies caused his death.

Goldson allegedly attacks a sheriff’s deputy outside a hospital that night. Within minutes, other deputies rush to help their colleague.

About 20 seconds later, the deputies pull Goldson up off the grass in handcuffs and cart him off to a nearby sheriff’s squad car.

At one point, Goldson said, “I didn’t mean to.”

Soon after, a deputy can be heard saying, “yeah, that motherf*****’s getting a welcome party when we get to the jail. How would you like that, motherf*****?”

When Goldson arrives at the jail, deputies are waiting.

Four of them carry the inmate inside.

According to the Brown County Coroner’s report, 15 minutes later one of those deputies reports Goldson is hanging in his cell.

Fifteen minutes after that, another deputy who is already back on patrol, calls dispatch.

Radio traffic: “Brown County Communications, please tell me he tried to hang himself? Yeah, I figured as much.”

“Hopefully, he got it done, but I doubt it.”

Deputies told his mother, Christy, moments after they returned to the jail her 24-year-old son wrapped a sheet around his own neck and hanged himself from a jail cell sprinkler.

But the coroner at the time, Dr. Judith Varnau was not so sure.

FOX19 NOW Investigates obtained the coroner’s entire case file.

She ruled the death a homicide by strangulation, not a suicide.

How could a 6′2″ Goldson hang himself from the sprinkler head that was more than 9′ off the ground she questioned.

Even with the help of a bed or toilet, he could not reach it.

According to the report, the sprinkler head is designed to break away if 40 pounds is attached.

Goldson weighed 154 pounds.

In the autopsy photos, the inmate is handcuffed behind his back.

A safety precaution deputies say they took while conducting CPR to ensure Goldson would not fight back once revived.

The coroner countered in her report.

A CPR-certified individual would have first cleared the airway by removing the noose from around the neck before starting chest compressions.

And marks on Goldson’s neck also came into question by the coroner.

Dr. Varnau claimed the half-inch ligature marks on his neck do not match up with the one-and-a-half-inch sheet noose.

In fact, she wrote they look more like marks made by a nylon strap used to restrain inmates. A strap that could have been wrapped around his neck, strangling him.

Brown County Chief Deputy John Schadel told FOX19 NOW Investigates his deputies were innocent.

And a second autopsy performed by the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office found the cause of death to be hanging. A grand jury cleared the deputies of any wrongdoing.

Plaintiff’s witnesses, which were corrections officers and a doctor, testified Tuesday in a federal courtroom in downtown Cincinnati.

The case is expected to run through the week.

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