Mother of Rikers inmate baked to death in cell is suing NYC

I find this an unbearably painful story.

Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill, homeless veteran, was picked up by cops for trespassing and put into Rikers where, as the Daily News headline describes, he baked to death in his cell.

His mother, Alma Murdough, is suing the City. Derek Sells, her lawyer, said it perfectly: “As a result, someone who was arrested on a trespassing charge ended up getting the death penalty.”

That’s not the first time I’ve heard that expression. In the late 1990s, I worked on a case called Pizzuto v Nassau County. Tommy Pizzuto was stopped by a Nassau County cop who suspected he was DWI. He wasn’t; he was a recovering addict who took methadone.

After a series of pro forma courtroom appearances, the county judge threw Tommy into Nassau County jail because, if I remember, his lawyer had bumbled and had not shown up in court and it put the judge into a mood. Not Tommy’s fault.

Tommy had not expected to be thrown into jail that day. Immediately he began to insist that he was without his methadone and needed it.

That annoyed the prison personnel. Some of them went into his cell and beat Tommy badly. When he was eventually taken to Nassau County Medical Center, he lay on a gurney unattended for a while, and died.

Tommy, too, had been arrested on a misdemeanor and got a death sentence.

Awful expression, especially because it’s accurate.

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