Judge dismisses the manslaughter charges against prison warden and five staffers who let inmate starve to death in solitary confinement

District Judge Charles Nebel in Alger County, Michigan, dismissed manslaughter charges against a prison warden and five others who caused the death of prisoner Jonathan Lancaster in 2019. Though they "failed to provide or ensure the required level of care" by putting him in solitary confinement after he stopped eating and drinking, he was "doomed to die" and Nebel ruled they cannot be held responsible for his death.

Lancaster had stopped eating and drinking, causing his sodium levels to get so elevated that he could no longer communicate or respond to officers' directions, the judge said. By the time of his death, Lancaster had missed nine consecutive meals, he said. He had been placed in restraints and was found lying in his own feces and urine.

Nebel pointed to holes in Michigan Department of Corrections policies, which he said may have since been corrected, that he said contributed to a "perfect storm" and Lancaster's death. …

Lancaster, who had mental health issues, lost more than 50 pounds in 15 days, according to evidence in the case. Nebel said there was some testimony that even if the weight checks had been done, that would not have made a difference in saving Lancaster's life. But he said the checks should have been done, regardless.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose charges were quashed by Nebel, said Lancaster's death was "a preventable tragedy that played out over days and under the defendants' supervision."

Nebel's logical gyrations, to get to the point where no-one is responsible for the weekslong starvation and death of a mentally ill man in prison, says much about the state of America's justice system and how little accountability there is. They found him lying unconscious in his own feces and urine and they threw him in solitary confinement. We constantly fret about incivility and disorder and violence, yet here's a federal judge admitting misconduct while concluding that noone is responsible when everyone is complicit. He may as well be on the streets yelling "justice is taken, not served" into a bullhorn.

Free to YOLO again are former acting warden Scott Sprader; former assistant deputy warden Benny Mercier; and former MDOC registered nurses Paul Zelenak, Nathan Moser, Barbara Bedient and John Crane.