Chicago — Family members of an inmate who died in the Cook County jail last week have hired a law firm to “get answers” about what happened to their relative, Melvin Turner Jr.
Turner, 35, was found unresponsive in his bed in the jail’s Residential Treatment Unit just before 9 a.m. on Friday, according to the sheriff’s office. He was the seventh inmate to die in the jail this year, a number consistent with full-year in-custody death totals leading up to the COVID pandemic.
“The family of Melvin Turner deserves to know what happened in the hours before his unexplained death,” Larry Disparti, Founder of Disparti Law Group, said in a media release on Wednesday afternoon, “and we intend on getting those answers.”
“We believe Melvin Turner, Jr.’s death resulted from Sheriff [Tom] Dart’s failure to provide proper medical oversight following his placement in the Cook County Jail’s Residential Treatment Unit,” Disparti said. “Had Sheriff Dart appropriately assessed Melvin’s medical condition and provided proper care and attention, Melvin’s tragic death could have been prevented.”
Turner arrived at the jail late on Thursday, March 2, after a sober living housing provider withdrew its consent for him to reside in its facility while on electronic monitoring for a pending retail theft case, according to the sheriff’s office statement. He had been hospitalized at Jackson Park Hospital for possible substance abuse immediately before he returned to the sheriff’s custody last week, the sheriff’s office said.
“After the hospital discharged him, Turner was transported to the jail where he was evaluated by Cermak Health Services medical staff before he was housed in a Residential Treatment Unit dormitory for individuals who are detoxing,” the sheriff’s office said in a written statement Wednesday evening.
Jail staff and medical personnel administered life-saving measures upon discovering Turner, the sheriff’s office said, but those efforts were unsuccessful.
A representative for the Disparti Law Group confirmed that Turner “sought rehabilitation services from Jackson Park Hospital” and was taken to jail after being released.
The Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office are all looking into Turner’s death.
“At this time, there are no signs of foul play,” the sheriff’s office said.
The Cook County medical examiner’s office has only determined the cause and manner of death in one of the seven jail death cases this year: Marvell Reasonover, 28, was beaten to death in his maximum security cell last Thursday evening.
The sheriff’s office said Reasonover’s cellmate was “secured and led out of the cell” after officials found Reasonover unresponsive. The cellmate arrived at the jail in recent weeks after being charged in a high-profile murder case, according to the source. As of Wednesday evening, no charges had been announced in Reasonover’s death.