The mother of a man who died while being booked into jail last November has filed a lawful death lawsuit against Tennessee’s Cheatham County. The suit claims that on November 10, 2009, Chizum Whaley voluntarily went to the Cheatham County jail to turn himself in as he had several outstanding warrants for his arrest. The warrants pertained to a theft of property case and a related failure to appear, according to records. According to the lawsuit, Whaley immediately advised officers that he had taken a number of pills before coming to the jail. These pills included Xanax, methadone and oxycontin.
The suit further states that officials assured Whaley’s mother that he would be fine because there was a nurse on duty; however no nurse is recorded as having participated in the booking process or indeed having seen Whaley at all. No attempt was made to address the testified medical needs that Whaley brought up when being booked, according to Paula Whaley.
The suit is quite extensive in its reach. Whaley’s mother has named the county, numerous county employees, Ashland City and one Ashland City officer, the nurse on duty at the station that evening, a health partners group and others still. Whaley says she is seeking a total of $1.5 million dollars in compensatory damages for her son’s wrongful death.
This case raises a lot of disturbing questions. Why was a nurse promised, but no record shows one having acted? Why was medical attention not sought for a prisoner who openly admitted to taking a great deal of medicine? Surely this would have been a suicide warning red flag to someone. Perhaps most of all, it shows how slow the process of seeking justice can be. A year is a long time to agonize through the details, and yet it is not unusual for cases such as these.