Federal judge rules for county in inmate death case

Published 12:14 am Thursday, December 20, 2018


NATCHEZ — A federal lawsuit against the county and sheriff’s office filed by the family of a county inmate who died in March 2016 ended Tuesday when the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi’s Western Division ruled in the county’s favor.

Joseph “Joey” Sturdivant died at 32 years of age in an isolated cell, hanging by a noose that appeared to be fashioned with bed sheets on the same day he was allegedly assaulted by four other inmates.

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A preliminary autopsy at the time of the incident ruled Sturdivant’s death as a suicide.

However, Sturdivant’s family later filed a lawsuit against the county, alleging that there was a conspiracy between former Adams County jailer and defendant, Victor Smith, and inmates who assaulted Sturdivant.

Smith was accused of intentionally leaving the button locks open that controlled the cell doors and allowing inmates to enter Sturdivant’s cell.

The plaintiffs’ further alleged that the county failed to provide accurate protection for Sturdivant from the other inmates.

The court ruled Tuesday, with U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett presiding, that no evidence supported the allegations.

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said he extends his condolences to Sturdivant’s family and is glad the case is closed.

“That was a very unfortunate thing,” Patten said. “No one wants to see something like this happen. … My heart still goes out to the family, and we’re sorry for their loss. … At the same time, I’m glad we were finally able to put this case to rest.”