Video of fatal jail encounter remains under wraps

Coroner says establishing cause of death may take weeks

It may be a month before the Sangamon County coroner’s office determines a cause of death for a county jail inmate who died early Tuesday after being tased by jail staff.

Meanwhile, authorities have not released video that might show what happened.

Jaimeson D. Cody, 39, died about 20 hours after he was booked into the jail by Divernon police on suspicion of domestic violence. Illinois State Police are conducting a death investigation. Sheriff Jack Campbell declined to answer any questions about the case, although he said that no jail staff has been put on leave.


“If you’re going to mention the words ‘death’ and ‘inmate,’ those questions are all going to Illinois State Police,” Campbell said.
click to enlarge Jaimeson Cody died after a struggle with Sangamon County jailers. - SANGAMON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
Sangamon County Sheriff's Office
Jaimeson Cody died after a struggle with Sangamon County jailers.

A state police press release largely paralleled a press release from the sheriff's office. Both agencies said that Cody struggled with jailers who were concerned about an apparent medical condition. “The inmate immediately resisted Sangamon County jail staff,” state police said in the release. “This led to a struggle with the inmate, who continued to actively resist jail staff. During the struggle, the inmate became unresponsive.”

The nature of the medical condition isn’t clear, nor is it clear why Cody was alone in a cell and, according to the sheriff’s press release, under “close observation.” The sheriff’s office in its release said that guards doing regular cell checks saw what appeared to be blood on Cody’s jail uniform. After attempting to determine whether he was injured by talking to him, guards entered the cell along with medical staff, the sheriff reported. “He resisted attempts for officers (along with medical staff) to check him and their attempt to handcuff him for his safety,” the sheriff’s office said in the release. “Tasers were deployed to the legs to gain control of the inmate. After he was handcuffed, he became unresponsive.” Cody was pronounced dead at Memorial Medical Center less than an hour later.

It’s not clear how many times Cody was tased. An autopsy was performed on Tuesday. Sangamon County Coroner Jim Allmon said that it might take a month to get results of toxicology tests before a cause of death is established and whether it was natural, accidental or a homicide. Although Cody had been in custody for 20 hours, Allmon said that pathologists his office uses won’t establish official causes of death absent toxicology results.

Cody’s family is trying to arrange for a private autopsy, according to August Mrozowski, grandfather to Cody’s 14-year-old son. “I’d like to know what happened,” Mrozowski said. “I think it’s a wrongful death.”


Mrozowski said he had little regard for Cody, who had a history of domestic violence and went to prison after battering his daughter. “He’s not a very good person, but he’s related to our grandson, and we love our grandson,” Mrozowski said.

Morowski said he believes that the video should be made public. “I’d like to see it,” he said. “I don’t see why the public can’t see it.”

Scott Sabin, an attorney whom Morowski has consulted in an effort to get more information, also called for the video to be released. “I’m kind of like everybody else: I’d like to see the video,” Sabin said. “I think it should be released sooner rather than later. I believe in transparency.”

Sgt. Christopher “Joey” Watson, state police spokesman, wrote in an email that police haven’t decided when to release the video because the investigation is ongoing. Under the state Freedom of Information Act, records pertaining to active investigations only can be withheld if the public body can demonstrate that disclosure would hamper an investigation. Watson wrote that release of the video would be authorized by the state’s attorney’s office.

Illinois Times has requested the video. “Release of additional information will be made in accordance with applicable law and balancing the public’s interest in disclosure with preservation of the integrity of ISP’s ongoing investigation,” Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright wrote in an electronic message to the newspaper.


Patricia Hayes, one of six Democrats on the 29-member county board, said that Tasers don’t belong in the jail, where inmates are already secured and, presumably, unarmed.

“Why was a Taser used if he’s already locked up?” asked Hayes, who was elected last November and sits on the county board’s jail oversight committee. “If he was having a medical emergency, why didn’t they take him to a hospital or call in medical personnel?”

Hayes also said that jail staff involved in the incident should be placed on leave until an investigation is complete. “In every other instance, when something like this happens with law enforcement, the officer involved is put on administrative leave,” she said. “In the meantime, until the dust settles, they shouldn’t be working.”

Concerns about jail operations helped prompt her to run for county board, Hayes said. “I was aware of longstanding problems at the Sangamon County jail,” Hayes said. “I was hoping to make a difference. This is just very disturbing.”

Cody is the seventh person to die since 2007 after encounters with sheriff’s deputies or in the jail, where six inmates have died. Three of the seven deaths occurred after sheriff’s employees deployed Tasers. At least two people since 2015 who’ve been tased by sheriff’s employees have collected settlements after suing, including Tamara Skube, a bystander during a 2011 DUI arrest who was paid $150,000 in 2015 after a deputy tased her, and Richard Haley, an inmate with epilepsy who says that guards tased him in 2011 while he was having a seizure. He settled for $9,000 in 2017.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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