Lawsuit over inmate’s suicide moves forward

File photo by Lesley Toth
File photo by Lesley Toth

Did Mille Lacs County not do enough to prevent one of its inmates from committing suicide?

The parents of Joshua Holscher hope to answer that question with the outcome of a civil suit stemming from their son’s hanging death while in jail custody in December 2010.

Two weeks ago, a District Court denied a motion for a summary judgment filed by the attorneys representing the county to dismiss the case entirely. Chief Judge Michael Davis found the case had enough merit to move forward on two counts.

“The Court concludes that plaintiffs have raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the county had actual knowledge of Holscher’s risk of suicide,” wrote Davis.

The suit accuses Mille Lacs County of denying Holscher the right to adequate medical care and of failing to properly train corrections staff on policy regarding inmates who are at risk of suicide attempts.

“We respectfully disagree with the district court’s decision to deny our motion for summary judgment,” said the county’s lead attorney on the case, Jason Hiveley. “We will file an appeal with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. It is tragic that Joshua Holscher took his own life, but the legal issue is whether Mille Lacs County corrections officers knew Mr. Holscher would harm himself and then disregarded that knowledge,” the county’s attorney Hiveley said. “The corrections officers had no knowledge Mr. Holscher planned to commit suicide, so we believe the 8th Circuit should overturn the District Court’s decision and dismiss this case.”

Holscher’s parents, Randy Holscher, who lives in Kansas, and Debra KickHafer, of Onamia, are represented by the Milaca law firm Curott & Associates in the case. Richard Curott, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said the defense counsel’s view of the legality of the case is wrong.

“As Judge Davis noted in his decision, the legal issue is whether there is evidence that Mille Lacs County is being willfully or deliberately indifferent to jail inmates with mental health issues,” Curott said. “We believe that Judge Davis is right in deciding there is sufficient evidence for a jury to decide that suicide and suicide attempts in the Mille Lacs County Jail are often preventable tragedies that Sheriff Lindgren and his staff have been indifferent to.”

For the full story, see the Thursday, Feb. 28 print edition of the Times.