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Columbia County inmate death brings suit

Family of man who died last year in custody sues in federal court

Posted: March 6, 2012 - 10:39am  |  Updated: March 6, 2012 - 10:43am
John Wayne Siple, 44, died in July while jailed at the Columbia County Dentention Center.
John Wayne Siple, 44, died in July while jailed at the Columbia County Dentention Center.

Twitter @ColumbiaCounty

The family of a Columbia County jail inmate who died in custody last year has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sheriff Clay Whittle and his medical staff.

The complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court includes an affidavit from Dr. Harlan Luke, who says that after reviewing medical records he thinks “the nurses who treated John Wayne Siple violated the standards of care exercised by nurses in general.”

Siple, 44, of Hereford Farm Road, was arrested March 24 on charges of manufacturing marijuana after 86 marijuana plants and growing equipment were taken from his home, according to past reports. Luke’s affidavit says that Siple was experiencing withdrawal from the painkiller Xanax and that employees of the contracted medical provider, Southern Health Partners Inc., should have known he needed medical attention.

On the day he died, April 5, his body temperature was 94.5 at about 10 a.m., but a nonemergency transport to Doctors Hospital wasn’t requested until 1:30 p.m., the lawsuit says. During a shower to prepare him for transport, Siple collapsed without a pulse and was taken to Doctors Hospital, where he died at 3:44 p.m., according to the suit.

An autopsy report dated July 7 lists the cause of death as hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

Luke doesn’t dispute the cause of death in his affidavit, but says that the medical staff’s inattention to Siple’s syptoms resulted in exacerbating the condition that led to cardiac arrest. An attorney for the Siple family said he could not comment Tuesday.

Capt. Steve Morris, spokesman for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, said last year that jail medical staff followed protocol for treating inmates arriving with substance abuse issues. He said inmates “detoxing” are carefully watched.

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Comments (6)

Craig Spinks


Our sheriff's leadership in the CCSO's obtaining and maintaining accreditations as a law enforcement agency and a correctional institution will probably save us CC taxpayers a sizeable amount of money.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

a different drum

When I read this article --

When I read this article -- questions come to my mind. The man took a shower and collapsed at 1:30 PM with no pulse (It sounds like he was dead to me). How long did it take to get him to the hospital? Did the medical personel at the jail try to revive him before he was taken to the hospital? Was there a defibrillator on hand at the jail ( I hope so -- Walmart has them).

a different drum

Craig – I agree with you --

Craig – I agree with you -- we have a good sheriff. I have lived in Columbia County for the past 25 years or more. I am pleased with the job the sheriff has done, but when I read this article it makes me think there might be a problem with procedures related to the medical care of inmates (our sheriff may not be aware of it as this probably is typical of all jails -- standard operating procedure). I hope our sheriff will learn from this and evaluate the situation and improve the conditions. Any of us (or our loved ones) could wind up in jail for no fault of our own (people should be presumed innocent until proved guilty, but that is not always the case) and personally I believe we should have the same access to health care as we would if not incarcerated. I am glad to see this family bring suit ,as this is the only means of bringing attention to problems like this. The public really needs to be aware of what is going on. For example: Has an ambulance ever been dispatched to the jail for an inmate? I have never heard of it. These are things we should think about.

a different drum

Another question comes to my

Another question comes to my mind: Why does our government choose to charge this man with manufacturing marijuana when in fact he was actually growing marijuana? In my opinion God created marijuana when he spoke this world into existence and this man was in fact cultivating marijuana and caring on the word of God -- so to speak.


These people deserve

These people deserve nothing!! Not a penny. Maybe they should use his profits from growing and selling marijuana. Mabye this guy should have done everything he could NOT to get thrown in jail. 86 marijuana plants and they are going to sue the SO for his death. This is absolutely ridiculous.