Stillwater News Press

March 21, 2013

Payne County staff say they aren’t responsible for inmate suicide

By Russell Hixson
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Four motions asking for summary judgment have been filed in a lawsuit against Payne County employees for the suicide of a former jail inmate.

The motions argue that Sheriff R.B. Hauf, Jail Administrator Reese Lane, Payne County Commissioners and the jail’s healthcare provider were not responsible for the suicide of former inmate Peter duBois, who jumped to his death from a second floor pod in July 2010.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs and defense deposed Lane, Hauf, duBois’ parents, jail medical staff and medical experts to shed light on the incident.

Depositions revealed duBois on multiple occasions when talking to jail staff denied he was suicidal while suffering withdrawal symptoms from methadone, a narcotic used to treat opiate dependence.

According to court records, federal regulations limit its use to licensed narcotic treatment programs or in hospitals on an emergency basis for three days.

DuBois was arrested for failing to appear in Payne County District Court on a felony charge of obtaining or attempting to obtain drugs by forgery or fraud and was sentenced to seven years in prison. His father testified duBois was terrified of going to prison and this could have contributed to his suicide.

DuBois attempted suicide months earlier but he denied this to jail staff, the deposition shows.

In July 2010, Oklahoma Department of Corrections inmates were not allowed to use methadone. DuBois had authorized his immediate transfer to DOC for his sentence.

To cope with his withdrawal he was prescribed several medications, including Clonidine, which is commonly used to treat withdrawal pain.

The defense argues county employees had no reason to believe duBois would attempt suicide and that they acted appropriately in treatment.

The plaintiffs argue the jail did not take appropriate actions in dealing with duBois’ methadone withdrawal, including not prescribing him methadone.

Efforts by the duBois family have resulted in the passing of a bill requiring jails to properly treat methadone withdrawal though officials have said it is being widely ignored by jails.