Walker Co. Sheriff’s Office responds to lawsuit in death of inmate

Walker County Sheriff's Office
Walker County Sheriff's Office(WBRC)
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 8:55 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2023 at 10:21 PM CST
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WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - The Walker County Sheriff’s Office has responded to a lawsuit filed in the death of former inmate Anthony “Tony” Mitchell.

The federal lawsuit claims Mitchell froze to death while in custody in Walker County back in January. Mitchell’s mother filed the lawsuit.

In the court filing, officers deny most of the accusations from Mitchell’s family in a lawsuit.

WBRC spoke with the department’s lead attorney, Randy McNeill, after the filings. The sheriff’s office said they never put Mitchell into a freezer or that he was kept naked in a jail cell.

“From the evidence we have, is that he wasn’t kept in a freezer,” McNeill said. “There has been a lot thrown at them, from what we can see, without any basis. In regards to putting someone in a freezer, I mean essentially they were accused of killing somebody and covering it. There’s just not any evidence to support that.”

McNeill said they have video evidence that shows Mitchell while he is in custody.

“His incarceration is captured on video,” McNeill told WBRC. “We have video from the booking area of the jail and we have video of the kitchen area where the freezers are.”

Mitchell’s family’s lawsuit said he froze to death and that an ER doctor listed his cause of death as hypothermia, including that his rectal temperature was 72 degrees. McNeill said they still need to see autopsy results.

“Medical records say what the medical records say,” he said. “We have not had a chance to look at the medical records. Autopsy isn’t even back yet, so there is not enough of a basis for us to go and say anything regarding the medical records until we see the autopsy report.”

Videos of Mitchell and Deputies inside the jail have leaked, but McNeill said they don’t paint the whole picture.

“To be able to make a fair judgement on what happened, somebody would have to look at all the video, rather than just still images and pieces of video,” he said.

They have also filed a motion to strike all of these allegations and other language that they deem “scandalous”.

“Under rule 12F, of the federal rules of civil procedure, it allows for a process to remove language that is deemed to be scandalous and without much basis,” McNeill said. “That is what we did, we moved in that direction.”

He said the entire department has faced scrutiny and backlash from these allegations.

“It created a firestorm of negative publicity,” McNeill said. “They have been flooded with negative publicity, subject of protests at the jail, and our position is, without really any merit to the allegations that he was kept in a freezer.”

They also say Mitchell didn’t die in their custody, but at an area hospital.

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