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February 23, 2013

Judge tosses suit vs. Peabody police

Ruling: Rights of man who died in custody not violated

(Continued)

Complicating matters was the fact that while he was in the cell, shortly after his booking process had started, Lucia fell asleep.

“There is no evidence that Lucia asked to be taken home, or for that matter protested his continued detention,” Saylor wrote, rejecting the lawsuit’s claims that he was held in violation of his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable detention.

“It is therefore doubtful that he was being held against his will. Furthermore, it hardly seems sensible to conclude that the police — having failed to contact a treatment facility — became obligated at that point by the United States Constitution to arouse Lucia and put him back out on the street.”

“Put another way, Lucia’s continued detention was not entirely unreasonable under the circumstances,” the judge concluded.

The judge also noted that the officers, during depositions, had testified that to their knowledge, no one had ever been taken from protective custody to a treatment program, and an official at the Center for Addictive Behaviors (CAB) who was deposed also could not recall any instance where they admitted someone who was in protective custody.

The judge also rejected claims that the officers had shown “deliberate indifference” to Lucia’s well being, finding that they did not know he had taken drugs that night.

While Lucia’s daughter contended through her attorneys that police were “willfully blind” to the elevated risk Lucia faced because of his drug use, the judge found that Lucia, who was conscious and talking when he was taken into custody, did not mention his drug use.

“The officers assumed, not unreasonably, that he was drunk and needed to sleep it off,” Saylor wrote, citing Lucia’s long prior history of protective custody detentions for alcohol use and more than 20 prior involvements with officers because of alcohol intoxication.

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