A judge in Alger County, Michigan, dismissed charges on Monday against six individuals involved in the death of Jonathan Lancaster, a Michigan prisoner who died of dehydration while being restrained in 2019. The judge, Charles Nebel, stated that while there was evidence of a lack of proper care for Lancaster, it was not enough to proceed with involuntary manslaughter charges against two former prison officials and four nurses.
Lancaster, who was serving time for robbery and gun crimes in the Detroit area, had a history of mental illness and exhibited symptoms such as paranoia, anxiety, loss of appetite, and insomnia while at the Alger prison. Nebel acknowledged that Department of Corrections policies at the time may have contributed to a “perfect storm” leading to Lancaster’s death.
Charges were dismissed against the nurses and the two high-ranking prison officials, Scott Sprader and Benny Mercier. However, different charges are pending against two corrections officers. Following Lancaster’s death, six individuals were fired, and several others faced disciplinary action. The case was referred to the state police for investigation by the Corrections Department.
Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office is currently evaluating its next steps, according to spokesman Danny Wimmer. Prosecutors may seek to persuade a circuit court judge to overturn the dismissal of charges. In a separate development, Lancaster’s family reached a $2.6 million settlement in 2021 after suing prison health staff and private contractors.