RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A prosecutor called for a special grand jury to be convened in the case of a mentally ill inmate who died after being jailed on charges of stealing $5 worth of junk food.
Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales said she filed a motion Wednesday seeking a special grand jury in the death of 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell. Morales didn’t provide details about what prompted her request and said she cannot say what specifically she wants the special grand jury to investigate.
A judge must approve the request, which comes nearly a year after state police launched a criminal investigation. Morales said in March that she asked state police to investigate “new allegations” made in the case, but declined to elaborate. She said Wednesday that state police’s probe into those allegations is ongoing.
The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating the treatment of inmates at the jail. Federal officials said in December that their probe focuses in part on whether the jail is violating the rights of mentally ill inmates.
Mark Krudys, an attorney for Mitchell’s family, said in an email that the family is encouraged by Morales’ “willingness to follow the facts in the case.”
Jail Superintendent Ronaldo Myers, who was named to the post in February, said it welcomes “any and as many investigations or inquiries” authorities deem necessary.
“We will continue to provide our unfettered cooperation to all law enforcement authorities, as we continue to remain vigilant and as we continually work tirelessly to get better,” Myers said in a statement.
Mitchell, who had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was jailed in April 2015 on charges he stole a Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar and a Zebra Cake from a 7-Eleven in Portsmouth.
He was ordered to a state mental hospital, but his paperwork was stuffed in a hospital employee’s desk drawer and he was never sent there. He died about four months later of heart failure accompanied by severe weight loss, a medical examiner said.
Mitchell’s family filed a $60 million lawsuit accusing jail officials of physically abusing Mitchell and withholding food.
The jail has said officials never mistreated or ignored Mitchell, claiming he was offered nearly 300 meals during his stay and received all but three meal trays he refused.
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