Manslaughter charges thrown out in Michigan prisoner’s death

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MUNISING, Mich. (AP) — A judge dismissed charges Monday against six people in the death of a Michigan prisoner who lost 50 pounds over two weeks and died of dehydration while being restrained in 2019.

There was evidence of a lack of proper care for Jonathan Lancaster but not enough to send two former prison officials and four nurses to trial for involuntary manslaughter, Alger County Judge Charles Nebel said.

Lancaster’s life already was in peril when he was moved to an observation cell at the Alger prison and died three days later, the judge said.

“This is not the end for us,” Lancaster’s sister, Danielle Dunn, said. “We will fight for an appeal and continue to advocate for other families like ours as well as current incarcerated citizens.”

Lancaster, 38, was in prison for robbery and gun crimes in the Detroit area. He had a history of mental illness and showed symptoms while at Alger, including paranoia, anxiety, loss of appetite and insomnia, his family said.

Nebel said Department of Corrections policies at the time may have contributed to a “perfect storm” and Lancaster’s death, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Charges were dismissed against the nurses and Scott Sprader and Benny Mercier, who were high-ranking prison officials. Different charges are pending against two corrections officers.

Six people were fired and several more were disciplined after Lancaster’s death. The Corrections Department referred the case to state police for investigation.

Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office is “evaluating its next steps,” spokesman Danny Wimmer said Monday.

Prosecutors could try to persuade a circuit court judge to overturn the decision.

Separately, Lancaster’s family reached a $2.6 million settlement in 2021 after suing prison health staff and private contractors.

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