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  • Jurydoctor@aol.com
    for those following the case: (and thanks for all your comments) Amy Collier Sheriff s Office accused of violating civil rights of slain psychiatrist By CHRIS
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2005
      for those following the case:
      (and thanks for all your comments)
      Collier Sheriff's Office accused of violating civil rights of slain
      By CHRIS W. COLBY, cwcolby@...
      April 30, 2004
      The widow of a psychiatrist, who court records say was strangled to death by
      a Collier County jail inmate, has changed her lawsuit to seek more money from
      the Collier Sheriff's Office by alleging the agency violated her husband's
      civil rights.
      Rae Hoyer, widow of Dr. David Hoyer, added a federal count to the two state
      counts that formed the wrongful death lawsuit when it was filed in 2002.
      State law sets a $100,000 cap on damages in lawsuits against the local
      government if a plaintiff succeeds in proving a violation of state law. But damages
      from a breach of federal law have no maximum, Hoyer's Palm Beach attorney,
      David Gaspari, said.
      "If you succeed, there are unlimited damages," Gaspari said. "And attorneys
      fees on top of that."
      The suit originally was filed in Collier Circuit Court. During the process of
      discovery, which involves the sharing of evidence and interviews with
      witnesses, Gaspari learned more of the circumstances around Hoyer's death on Jan. 6,
      2001. That prompted the attorney to change the lawsuit about a month ago.
      Because the federal count was added, the Sheriff's Office's Fort Lauderdale
      lawyer, Bruce W. Jolly, said the case was moved recently to U.S. District Court
      in Fort Myers. The case could have remained in Naples, but Jolly asked for it
      to be reassigned.
      Hoyer was strangled while conducting a mental health evaluation on inmate
      Rodrigus Patten, court records say. The criminal case charging Patten with murder
      is pending.
      Jolly has filed paperwork with the court, arguing the sheriff has no legal
      culpability โ€” that Hoyer, of Bonita Springs, and Patten, of Golden Gate, are to
      blame for the death.
      Hoyer was attacked in a soundproof room after Patten's public defender
      requested he conduct a mental health evaluation to determine if Patten could stand
      trial on kidnapping, carjacking and robbery charges.
      During the interview, in which the two were alone, Patten strangled Hoyer to
      death, the lawsuit and prosecutors allege. The criminal indictment alleges the
      murder was a premeditated act, although authorities never discovered a
      Patten wasn't handcuffed or shackled during the interview. Deputies found
      Hoyer collapsed in the room after Patten alerted them Hoyer may have had a heart
      attack. He died three days later at Naples Community Hospital. An autopsy
      revealed he died of manual strangulation.
      The suit alleges Sheriff Don Hunter โ€” as the sheriff in charge of operating
      and maintaining the jail โ€” was negligent in "causing or contributing to the
      death of" Hoyer.
      Court records related to Patten's criminal case say Hoyer was made aware
      Patten had an antisocial personality disorder and was considered extremely
      dangerous, but the doctor never requested any kind of restraints for Patten.
      Gaspari said jail policy required interviews to take place in a room with a
      glass window, but no deputy was monitoring those inside. And Hoyer was never
      told of an alarm in the room he might have been able to trigger when he was
      The suit alleges the federal civil rights violation occurred when the jail
      failed to institute proper safety procedures to protect Hoyer and deliberately
      didn't follow what regulations were in effect. The jail's procedures required
      two deputies to monitor the interview. Patten should have been deemed a
      high-risk inmate, but he wasn't, Gaspari said.
      The day before Hoyer's death, Patten had wrestled another inmate to the
      ground, punched him and threatened him, Gaspari said. Patten already had a criminal
      charge pending related to a battery on another inmate. None of this was told
      to Hoyer, Gaspari said.
      "You don't know if he's a killer. . . You don't have access to his medical
      record. You don't know if he's tried to kill five people in there," Gaspari
      Jolly argued Hunter "would assert that the incident about which the plaintiff
      complains was totally unforeseeable to this defendant, and therefore this
      defendant had no opportunity to take steps to prevent (the death of Hoyer)."
      Jolly also argued Hunter denies failing to provide a safe premises for
      business invitees or failing to "exercise reasonable care under all of the relevant
      surrounding circumstances."
      Gaspari said the move to federal court could add another two years to the
      time it takes to dispose of the case, and stalling may have been Jolly's tactic.
      Lawyers also prefer to have federal judges, rather than state judges, preside
      over issues of federal law because they tend to be more familiar with the
      If the federal count is dismissed, the case could get bounced right back to
      Naples anyway, Gaspari said.
      "Civil rights and 14th amendment violations are difficult to explain and
      difficult to prove," Gaspari said.

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