Attorney Roy L. Glass was at the end of a four week trial delivering his closing argument when he started sobbing. Mr. Glass was experiencing an emotional reaction to the suicide death of John Patterson while an inmate in the Pinellas County Jail. No matter what the circumstances of the incarceration and death, the human tragedy of the death suddenly overwhelmed him. He apologized after returning to the courtroom for his outburst. I believe no apologies were necessary. We need more honest human emotion, not less, when we consider the consequences of our actions.
The verdict has not been rendered in the Patterson trial. We do not know if the jail or jailor acted improperly and, therefore, contributed to the death of the inmate. We do know, however, that a life was lost and that is something to cry about.
Excerpts from the St. Pete Times article:
Six years have passed since John Patterson was found dead in a Pinellas County Jail cell, a victim of the anxiety and racing thoughts that led him to hang himself with his own shoelace.
The date was Oct. 1, 1999. In the weeks, months and now years of finger-pointing and tears that followed, that is one of the few facts that remains undisputed.
Attorneys made closing arguments Thursday in a wrongful death lawsuit that Patterson’s mother brought against former Sheriff Everett Rice, the Pinellas County Commission, and Mark Ondrey, the detention deputy who supervised the psychological observation unit where Patterson was held the day before his death.
When Patterson, 42, violated his probation and turned himself in to authorities on Sept. 28, 1999, his problems were already well-documented. The skilled mechanic and father of a newborn girl, Kaylin, was estranged from his wife and had recently lost his job. When he entered the jail, he brought medications for his various mental illnesses, among them bipolar disorder with psychotic features.
Glass alleged that Ondrey was recklessly negligent of Patterson’s condition when he periodically patrolled the psychological wing until his shift ended at 11:30 p.m. Inmate witnesses had testified that Patterson, of Treasure Island, was depressed, feeling suicidal and told them so.
Ondrey testified that he spoke with Patterson after noticing that he was weaving something with his shoelace. Patterson said he was making a cross. Ondrey confiscated it as contraband, according to court records.
With the other shoelace, Patterson hung himself on a towel rack about 4 a.m.
During his closing statement, Glass also emphasized who he thought to be the real victim of the suicide: Kaylin Patterson, a friendly 6-year-old with an IQ of 113 who asked if she could dig up her daddy the first time she visited his gravesite.
“You have the loss of one life,” he told jurors. “And you have the loss of a father.”
At that point, Glass paused, head bowed and face red. Then he broke down in tears. He excused himself and walked out of the courtroom.
As the doors swayed, his sobbing could be heard throughout the gallery.
When arguments resumed about 10 minutes later, Glass apologized for losing his “professional objectivity.” He had been working on the Patterson case for five years, he told the court, and the trial had lasted four weeks instead of two.