WALKER COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Attorneys for the family of Anthony “Tony” Mitchell have responded after lawyers for the Walker County Sheriff’s Office claimed Mitchell was not placed in a jail freezer prior to his death in police custody.
In a court response filed Monday afternoon, lawyers for the mother of Tony Mitchell, Margaret Mitchell, denied the claim that she alleged “Mitchell was definitely placed in a freezer.”
Instead, Mitchell’s lawyers wrote “each time the complaint mentions the word ‘freezer’ it states that Plaintiff was ‘likely’ placed in a freezer ‘or similar frigid environment.'”
The response comes following filings from attorneys for the Walker County Sheriff’s Office wherein they claimed Mitchell was not placed in a jail freezer prior to his death and requested the allegations be struck from court records.
Allegations that Mitchell was left in the jail’s walk-in freezer “or similar frigid environment” were initially made in a federal lawsuit filed by Mitchell’s mother against several jail officials, including Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith.
The lawsuit also includes quotes from notes included in Mitchell’s medical records written by an emergency room doctor after the Walker County man was transported to a local hospital the day he died.
“I am not sure what circumstances the patient was held in incarceration, but it is difficult to understand a rectal temperature of 72° F 22° centigrade while someone is incarcerated in jail,” the doctor’s notes said, according to the federal lawsuit. “The cause of his hypothermia is not clear. It is possible he had an underlying medical condition resulting in hypothermia. I do not know if he could have been exposed to a cold environment. I do believe that hypothermia was the ultimate cause of his death.”
“In the absence of extreme environmental cold, no medical condition can explain an over twenty-degree-Fahrenheit loss of body temperature in such a short time for a person who remains alive,” Mitchell’s lawyers wrote.
Attorneys for the sheriff’s office wrote that allegations Mitchell was left in a freezer are “the definition of scandalous.”
“Based on nothing but speculation, Plaintiff accuses the Defendants of murdering Plaintiff’s decedent, Tony Michell (Mitchell) by placing him in a freezer until he suffered and died from hypothermia and then accuse the Defendents of covering up the murder,” lawyers for the sheriff’s office wrote.
Mitchell, 33, died while in the custody of the Walker County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 26. He was being held at the Walker County Jail following his arrest on Jan. 12.
The sheriff’s office initially said Mitchell had been “alert and conscious” when he left the Walker County Jail to be taken to a local hospital, but a video obtained by CBS 42 contradicted that statement. In it, Mitchell’s body is shown being limp, his head and feet dangling as sheriff’s office personnel lay his body outside a marked police SUV.
Join CBS 42 News at 10 p.m. Wednesday to watch an interview with Anthony Mitchell’s family regarding his death in police custody.
Read the full motion to strike and response below: