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Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 11:37 am

COUNTY WINS ONE

Sangamon County has prevailed in one chapter of a lawsuit filed by the estate of a man who died nearly five years ago after a struggle with guards in the county jail.

U.S. District Court Judge Sue Myerscough last week ruled that county employees did not destroy emails or other electronic information about the case in bad faith and, further, that no relevant evidence likely existed in records that were destroyed after the 2007 death of A. Paul Carlock, an accused child molester who was awaiting trial.

It’s an issue that had stalled the case and helped drive the county’s legal tab to more than $1.75 million, believed to be the county’s highest-ever bill for defending a lawsuit. The plaintiffs had asked for financial sanctions and a ruling that a jury, once a trial is underway, should be told that destroyed emails likely contained information adverse to the county’s position.

While some emails might have been destroyed before employees were told that records should be preserved, Myerscough, after five hearings on the matter, attributed that to negligence, not bad faith. Furthermore, based on email logs and testimony from county employees who said that jailers didn’t use email to discuss inmates, Myerscough decided that any mention of Carlock in lost email correspondence was “incidental.”

“The Court does not find that relevant evidence was destroyed,” Myerscough wrote.

On Aug. 29, Myerscough granted a county motion to bar a plaintiff’s doctor from testifying that use of a Taser could have contributed to Carlock’s demise. 
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