Lawsuit filed in Livingston jail inmate’s death moved to federal court

The parents of a man who died while in custody at the Livingston Parish Detention Center want parish officials to reimburse their funeral and headstone costs and pay for the anguish they suffered after prison guards allegedly beat their son to death last year.

Stanley Norton and Rhonda Posey allege their son, 35-year-old Darrin Norton, of Denham Springs, died due to the guards’ use of excessive force and failure to render aid or lifesaving measures following a struggle at the jail on June 17, 2012.

Darrin Norton was booked June 16, 2012, on counts of aggravated criminal damage to property, criminal trespassing and resisting arrest after he allegedly threw rocks through the windows of a neighbor’s house. One of the rocks went through the window of a room occupied by two small children, according to the arrest report.

During a medical interview upon admittance to jail, Norton named several people he wanted to kill, including his physician, then-Sheriff Willie Graves and Chief Judge Bob Morrison of the 21st Judicial District, according to the report.

Norton initially was placed on suicide watch and, the following night, was being moved to a padded cell when he became violent, Sheriff Jason Ard said at the time.

Deputies used chemical spray during the altercation, but Ard said he did not know if Norton actually was hit by any of the spray.

Two deputies were injured in the struggle — one suffering head injuries and the other a broken ankle, Ard said.

Norton died around 9 p.m., his body lying outside the padded cell, authorities said.

His parents sued the jail, Sheriff Ard and Livingston Parish government in 21st Judicial District Court on June 12, claiming violations of their son’s rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, federal and state law.

Norton “suffered agonizing physical and mental pain, mental anguish and emotional distress from the time he was initially restrained until his death,” his parents said in their lawsuit.

In addition to compensation for their losses, they have asked for punitive damages “to deter willful and malicious conduct” in the future.

The suit was transferred from the 21st Judicial District Court in Livingston to U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge on Wednesday. Attorneys for Ard and the parish requested the removal.