‘Insufficient evidence’ to seek civil rights charges in man’s death at York County Prison

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

York County Prison staff members won’t face federal charges of violating the civil rights of a man who died while in custody more than three years ago.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Harrisburg announced Thursday that federal investigators found insufficient evidence in the death of Everett Palmer Jr. to pursue a criminal civil rights case against prison staff. Palmer, 41, died following a situation involving personnel at the prison in April 2018.

The investigation focused on whether officers at the prison used unreasonable force while restraining Palmer or showed indifference to his medical needs. Evidence from the Pennsylvania State Police, the York County District Attorney’s Office, medical reports, statements from witnesses and corrections staff and video recordings were included in the inquiry, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Investigators concluded they could not meet the “high legal standard” required to prove the federal civil rights statute was violated.

“The evidence, when viewed as a whole, is insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of force by corrections officers was ‘objectively unreasonable’ or that corrections officers acted with deliberate indifference to Palmer’s known medical needs,” the release states. “The evidence is also insufficient to establish that any corrections officer acted with the specific intent to break the law.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office deemed its investigation now closed. The York County District Attorney’s Office had not issued a response as of 3:45 p.m. Thursday.

An autopsy found Palmer died at York Hospital as a result of complications from an “excited state” due to methamphetamine intoxication while he was restrained by corrections officers at the prison.

Palmer had been striking his head against his cell door, according to the report. While taking him out of his cell, staff used stun weapons, wrestled Palmer to the ground and restrained him, including putting a “spit hood” over his head, before moving him to the prison’s medical wing.

He later died at the hospital.

A grand jury in March found prison medical staff had followed protocol. And the district attorney’s office said Palmer had not been assaulted, beaten or drugged.

Palmer’s family has been pursuing a wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court, alleging prison staff had drugged him with meth, beat him and then let him die.

Messages left with the family and their attorney were not returned Thursday.