Inmate’s Family Seeks $75 Million in Damages for Failure to Prevent Fatal Cellmate Attack in Shelby County Jail

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The family of Marcus Donald, an inmate who died while in custody at the Shelby County Jail, is suing the jail and its personnel for $75 million in damages. The lawsuit claims that deputy jailers failed to respond to threats from Donald’s cellmate that he would kill him, leading to Donald’s untimely death.

According to the lawsuit, Donald was strangled by his cellmate overnight on November 17 to 18, 2022, and was pronounced brain dead on November 23 by doctors at Regional One Hospital. The lawsuit also alleges that Donald should have been released on the day he was killed, as he had already served his time, but was kept in custody despite pleas to the guards to begin the release process.

The lawsuit further claims that Donald had expressed fear for his life to the jail staff but was ignored. It also alleges that the inmate who ultimately killed Donald had threatened to do so, and that other inmates had alerted the guards to the dangerous situation. However, the guards reportedly failed to take action to ensure Donald’s safety.

The lawsuit also points out that video evidence shows that guards did not conduct security rounds as required by jail policy, and that the guard station in the area where Donald was held was unmanned at the time of the incident. Additionally, the video allegedly shows that guards took several minutes before attempting to render aid to Donald after he was found unconscious.

Since January 2019, 44 inmates have died in Shelby County Sheriff’s Office custody, most at the jail at 201 Poplar, according to the lawsuit’s claims. This lawsuit raises serious concerns about the safety and security protocols in place at the Shelby County Jail, and seeks justice for the preventable loss of Marcus Donald.