A guard at a troubled unit for the mentally ill at the New York City jail on Rikers Island, has been arrested and charged in connection with the death of a homeless ex-Marine in a 101-degree cell, officials said Monday.
Carol Lackner, who was arraigned and released on her own recognizance, faces up to four years in prison if convicted on the 26 counts relating to the death of Jerome Murdough in February. Murdough died from hyperthermia due to exposure to extreme heat, according the New York medical examiner’s office.
Lackner, 35, faces multiple counts of falsifying business records and official misconduct for writing in a logbook that she toured the special unit every 30 minutes. Video from the jail did not show any such visits, prosecutors allege.
Lackner was suspended for 30 days following Murdough's death.
According to Bronx Dist. Atty. Robert Johnson’s office, Lackner, a jail guard for more than eight years, was scheduled to work during the late-evening and overnight hours at the Anna M. Kross Center’s mental observation unit on Feb. 14.
Prosecutors say that Lackner was required to regularly tour the unit during her shift. “She made logbook entries claiming she did those tours and the rest of her job during the three hours she was there, despite not performing work,” according to the charges.
Murdough’s body was found shortly after Lackner had left for the night on Feb. 15. It was unclear exactly when he died.
“I would do anything to bring him back if I could,” Lackner told the New York Times after the arraignment. “If I could trade places with him, I would do it in a minute.”
“I don’t know why I’m getting all the blame,” she added.
The Associated Press first reported Murdough’s death, after a city official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the former Marine “basically baked to death” when he was left unchecked for at least four hours as malfunctioning equipment caused his cell to overheat.
Murdough's death -- along with the death of another mentally ill inmate in a similar mental observation unit five months earlier -- prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to create a task force to study how the mentally ill are treated in jail.
Last week, De Blasio announced that task force's finding, saying he'll spend $130 million over the next four years to improve how the mentally ill interact with the justice system.
Murdough’s mother, Alma Murdough, had announced that she intended to sue, but city officials agreed to a $2.25-million settlement before any lawsuit was filed.
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