ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – After years of investigation into a 2019 jail death, a Clayton attorney says he’s found evidence of negligence and an attempted cover-up.
Attorney Mark Pedroli says jail video proves many of his allegations, video he says St. Louis County failed to produce. He claims he was able to obtain it through other sources.
Video from the St. Louis County Justice Center shows Jo’von Mitchell on Christmas Day 2019. This was an extraordinary year at the county jail because four inmates died while in custody.
“There were promises made by local elected officials that everything was going to change and, unfortunately, not everything did,” Pedroli said.
Pedroli filed a lawsuit this month after years of investigation.
“(Mitchell’s) roommate was banging on his buzzer when he was in his cell, begging and pleading at 4 in the morning to get him and take him to a hospital,” he said. “He’d never seen (Mitchell) this way. He’s 31 years old.”
Mitchell was reportedly slurring his words and staggering, as seen in the video.
An internal jail report documents when Mitchell slid down to the floor (6:46 a.m.), received an evaluation from a nurse (7:14 a.m.), and was walked back to the housing unit by other inmates (7:22 a.m.).
But five hours later, Mitchell was still visibly struggling.
At 12:41 p.m., jail staff took Mitchell to the infirmary in a wheelchair. A nurse arrived at his cell at 12:45 p.m.
Pedroli learned that another five hours passed until Mitchell was collapsed on the floor, as a corrections officer checked each infirmary room and just kept walking.
“Zero sense of urgency. He looked in and found somebody who’s non-responsive on the floor and this is in the infirmary,” Pedroli said. “So, this is the hospital for the jail. The immediate response should have been to run over and to get the nurse and to call a medical provider and to call 911. None of that happened.”
Pedroli says Mitchell died from what the medical examiner ruled was a brain bleed. He also found the guard on duty that day wrote a report claiming, “After asking (Mitchell) if he was okay and not receiving a response, I immediately went to notify medical staff.”
An internal affairs investigation noted the guard “falsified his report,” adding, “(the) officer did not act ‘immediately’ as he indicates in his report. (He) obviously saw something in cell #4 that he knew medical should be aware of, but yet he continues taking his tour…”
“I tried to make sure I was there for him,” said Juan Mitchell, Jo’von’s brother.
Juan and other family members were trying to visit Jo’von on Christmas Eve, but they said the jail denied them, saying Jo’von was in the infirmary (even though Pedroli says Jo’von was not yet at the infirmary at that time).
“An inmate looks forward to seeing their family member, because it’s all they got. It’s all they look forward to sometimes,” Juan said. “He didn’t get to see his family.”
St. Louis County says it cannot respond to cases that are in litigation.
Pedroli has not named a dollar amount in his suit. Right now, he says it’s more about gathering facts and preventing another jail death. Pedroli’s suit also alleges, among other things, that the infirmary’s airway suction equipment malfunctioned because of improper maintenance and that an oxygen tank was empty when staff finally attended to Mitchell.