Alcoholism has been a difficult addiction for hundreds of years. Today there are many programs and more knowledge of the effects of alcoholism and the risk of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome which can and has resulted in death. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome occurs when an alcoholic is suddenly ‘cut off’ from their supply of alcohol either by choice or force. Surviving Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is possible if the Alcoholic is under medical care in a medical facility to receive lifesaving medications when the symptoms begin. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome symptoms include but are not limited to: Anxiety, Restlessness, Irritability, Insomnia, Headaches, Poor Concentration, Depression, Isolation, Hallucinations, Sweating, Heart Palpitations, Muscle Tension, Tightness in the chest, Difficulty breathing, Tremors, Delerium Tremors, Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea.
Achieving Change in Fannin County Georgia Sheriff’s Jail
The Story (from the Press Release)
Death in Fannin County Jail, Blue Ridge Ga
In April of 2007 Jason Hewitt Armsden was arrested in Fannin County Georgia. He was an alcoholic and on his 4th day in an Isolation cell Jason died of Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome on April 10th 2007. He had not received any intervening medical care for his condition.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Jason Armsden’s sister, Mary Becker, filed a wrongful death Lawsuit against Fannin County et al via Attorney Bruce Millar of the law firm Millar and Mixon. Neither expected the suit to last ten very long years. However, Ms. Becker was determined to make a difference and hopefully save another family from such heartbreak and prevent another person from dying in such a manner in that facility.
Settlement resulting in Change
On April 10 2017 a settlement agreement was reached and signed that included confirmation of changes made by the Sheriff’s Office in policy and procedure during the intake process of booking. Today an onsite Nurse is in the facility daily during business hours and on call after hours and transport to hospital if a person is unable to walk in and/or is in distress is required prior to intake. Training of Staff in the recognition of alcohol or other addiction withdrawal as well as other health symptoms that could jeopardize the person’s wellbeing is policy and ongoing. In the Lobby off the Jail hangs a plaque recognizing the death of Jason Hewitt Armsden and the awareness and change brought about in the facility due to his death.
On August 4th 2017 Mary Becker with her spouse, her Attorney Bruce Millar, and opposing counsel toured Fannin County Jail to view the plaque and see first hand the changes made throughout the facility. Following are pictures of the plaque and lobby. For security purposes, pictures were not taken of the internal areas of the Jail.
Mary Becker and Bruce Millar with Plaque
A Close up of the Plaque
Walking into Jail lobby, Plaque is on left wall above water fountain
Mary Becker with Spouse and Plaque
The Details of his story left out of the Press Release:
On April 6th 2007, Jason Hewitt Armsden, 45 years old, was taken into custody by Deputies of the Fannin County Georgia Sheriff’s Department while in his vehicle in the Fannin County Georgia Hospital Parking Lot where his wife, Nancy Sue Tinsley (nee Hogan), was a patient. The charge was DUI. Mr. Armsden had a known history of Alcoholism.
On April 10th 2007, Jason Hewitt Armsden died in the holding cell of Fannin County Georgia of “Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome”. Sadly, one month later Jason’s wife died in hospital.
From April 6th through April 10th Mr. Armsden suffered every symptom of Alcohol Withdrawal without receiving any medical treatment for the Withdrawal Symptoms.
Mary Becker, Mr. Armsden’s sister was informed of her brothers death. She immediately sought the details from her Sister in Law Nancy Sue Hogan Tinsley Armsden as well as the Fannin County Sheriffs Department. Since Ms Becker had previously warned Fannin County Sheriff of her brothers severe Alcohol addiction she could not understand how they could allow his death to occur. Further, she did not feel their response and explanation for his death during that first meeting was accurate.
Ms. Becker immediately sought out and hired Bruce Millar of the law firm Millar & Mixon located in Jonesboro Georgia. Mr. Millar from the start was extremely supportive and committed to helping Ms. Becker achieve what she termed as “Justice For Jason”, however neither Mr Millar nor Ms Becker imagined it would take Ten Long years to achieve.
Over the years the case went through several courts, phases and challenges. The case climbed to the 11th Circuit Court where a trial date was set for April 3 2017 and expected to last two weeks. On Friday March 31st the defendants agreed to a settlement rather than continuing with Trial the following Monday Morning. Fittingly, 10 years to the day of Jason’s death, on April 10th 2017 the Settlement Agreement between Mary Becker and Fannin County Sheriff et al (defendants) was signed.
While we could have denied their 11th hour request to a settlement, the Justice we wanted to achieve could not have been made in Trial. A trial would have only ended with a large monetary award in the case rather than what we were actually seeking, CHANGE and ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.
The Change we were seeking included Training, Policy, and Procedural change in the Fannin County Detention Center that would insure every inmate was appropriately screened and treated for possible Alcohol Withdrawal. This was achieved in Settlement.
The Acknowledgement we were seeking was that the lack of appropriate treatment by Fannin County led to the death of Jason Hewitt Armsden in their facility. This was achieved in Settlement. Today, a Cast Bronze Plaque is displayed in the Fannin County detention center which states :
“The Fannin County Sheriff’s Office acknowledges that inmates may have alcohol addiction and may experience withdrawal, and therefore has set procedures to screen for and address such possibilities. Jason Hewitt Armsden’s death in the Jail in April, 2007 contributed to increased awareness of inmates with alcohol withdrawal and training to address those needs.”
In addition to the Change and Acknowledgement achieved in Settlement, there was a Monetary settlement as well. We agreed to a Monetary Settlement of Six Hundred Thousand Dollars,($600,000.00). The Monetary Settlement was distributed per Georgia Law to Attorney’s Fees and the Heirs of Jason Hewitt Armsden.
Mary Becker gratefully acknowledges and extends thanks to Bruce Millar for his commitment to this case during the entire ten year ordeal. Without his knowledge, commitment and passion for Justice we would not have achieved Justice for Jason.
In Loving Memory of Jason Hewitt Armsden August 14th 1961 – April 10th 2007