Family sues Mecklenburg sheriff over jail conditions leading to woman’s death

The brother of a woman who died last month in the Mecklenburg County Detention Center’s medical unit is suing the sheriff, citing problems similar to what state officials have been flagging at the local jail.

Francine Laney was found dead at the jail on March 2, The Charlote Observer previously reported.

Laney is the fourth person to die in the jail in less than a year and in three of those cases, jail inspection records indicate detention center staff failed to follow some safety procedures. In Laney’s case, state records show Mecklenburg jail employees did not “adequately observe her, a vital safety requirement that the facility has repeatedly violated throughout the past year” as it’s dealt with unprecedented an staff shortage, the Observer reported last week.

In his lawsuit, Terry Laney said the jail showed “deliberate indifference” to his sister’s medical needs and lacked enough medical staff. He filed the lawsuit against Sheriff Garry McFadden on Friday in U.S. District Court in Charlotte.

Terry Laney is a 46-year-old inmate at Tabor Correctional Institution in Tabor City with 19 years left on a sentence for second-degree murder/firearms conviction, prison records show. Tabor City is about 150 miles southeast of Charlotte.

His 31-year-old sister was found “unresponsive in her cell at the detention center infirmary,” the Observer reported at the time of her death. It’s unclear why she was placed in the jail’s medical unit. She’d been arrested on multiple charges.

TIMELINE: From firings to inmate deaths, a chaotic year at Meck jail

McFadden hasn’t been served notice of the lawsuit “and will not comment on matters pending in any court of law,” spokeswoman Janet Parker said in an email to the Observer.

McFadden has previously said the jail is safe but has acknowledged the seriousness of problems related to staff shortages. The detention center is under review by state officials, with a mandate that it both reduce its population and provide a plan of corrective action. North Carolina has the authority to close a jail deemed unsafe but it’s so far appeared unlikely state leaders will take that step in Mecklenburg.