MILWAUKEE -- A federal appeals court is giving new life to a lawsuit filed by the family of a deceased Milwaukee inmate. James Perry died at the Milwaukee County Criminal Justice Facility in 2010. There is unusually harsh language in the court's 41-page opinion.
"Oh God! Help me!" Perry says in surveillance video.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Milwaukee police officers ignored Perry's cries for help.
"I can't breathe with this thing on my face!" Perry says in the video.
"If you're talkin', you're breathin'," the officer says.
"They allowed my son to die," Angela Garner, Perry's mother said.
Garner sued both Milwaukee police and county correctional staff after her son died on the floor of the Criminal Justice Facility in 2010, with a spit mask covering his face.
"Do I wish that somebody perhaps had done CPR sooner? Sure. But I don't know if they saw him in need of CPR," Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said.
In 2016, a federal district court judge threw out the case, issuing summary judgement in favor of both the city and the county. On Monday, September 18th the appeals court reversed much of that decision.
"I don't think I've ever seen such bad police behavior in my 35 years as a judge," Judge Richard Posner said.
The court called the officers' behavior "unreasonable" and even "barbaric."
"I can't identify another appellate court opinion in the United States where they have specifically indicated that a potentially at fault officer, let alone a supervisor on the scene, dealt with a person in a 'barbaric' manner," James Gende, the attorney for the Perry family said.
Gende said he feels vindicated by the reversal. The case now goes back to the district court for further action.