New allegations raised in lawsuit about youth’s 2006 death at Tryon Facility

Court papers filed this month in federal court contend a 15-year-old boy who died in November 2006 w

Court papers filed this month in federal court contend a 15-year-old boy who died in November 2006 while being restrained by staff members at Tryon Residential Center in Perth repeatedly told those staffers he could not breathe.

The account raises questions about the 2007 Fulton County grand jury report that cleared the two staffers — John P. Johnson and Robert Murphy — who placed the restraint hold on the boy when he purportedly refused to stop complaining about the cancelation of daily recreation.

The court papers also provide information from Johnson’s employee records, including three allegations that prior restraint holds performed on residents cut off breathing. In a 2005 instance, a resident complained of losing consciousness during the restraint, the court papers said.

The documents, filed by Amsterdam lawyer Elmer Robert Keach III on behalf of the family of the late Darryl Thompson of the Bronx, claim staffers ignored the boy’s pleas and then made no attempt to revive him as he lay handcuffed on the carpet motionless for seven minutes.

Keach declined comment Friday, saying the court papers speak for themselves.

The documents, filed in U.S. District Court, attribute new information in the case to early depositions given by witnesses and to an internal report on the boy’s death completed by an investigator in the state Office of Children and Family Services.

A Fulton County grand jury cleared the two staffers who performed the restraint, but it issued a report in September 2007 that blamed OCFS and Tryon emergency response practices for delays that may have led to Thompson’s death. An autopsy determined the boy died from a heart arrhythmia possibly caused by abnormally narrow coronary arteries.

The grand jury report, which provided a detailed account of events leading to the restraint and death, did not mention the boy warning staffers he could not breathe. Though the new documents assert “the two-man restraint of Thompson did not cease until Thompson was unconscious, unresponsive and, presumably, dying,” the grand jury reported that no one noticed Thompson was unconscious until a second group of staffers called to the scene attempted to move him.

Keach filed the information in a motion seeking to amend the lawsuit to include two new defendants — both staffers — and new allegations. The motion was granted April 6 by Judge Andrew T. Baxter.

Spokespersons for OCFS and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose office represents many of the 13 defendants, declined comment on the new details.

Schenectady attorney Brian J. Toal, who represents two of the defendants, also declined comment. Johnson’s attorney, Daniel F. Hayes, did not return a telephone call.

Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira said the grand jury considered much of the information mentioned by Keach, but noted some of the information was not available in 2007 when the grand jury considered the case.

Sira said the grand jury had to focus on the autopsy report findings, which attributed death to the heart defect and not to a restraint hold. The grand jury also found that the restraint holds were executed in conformance with staff training.

Keach, citing depositions provided by several witnesses and the OCFS internal report on the death, said “Darryl Thompson cried over the course of several minutes that he could not breathe during the restraint, and that his difficulty breathing was evident to anyone who was present. These witnesses also testified that Mr. Thompson was repeatedly denigrated by defendant John Johnson as Thompson — literally — cried for his life,” Keach alleged in his motion to amend the lawsuit.

Categories: Schenectady County

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