Three Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies were found not guilty of criminally negligent homicide Tuesday, and the sheriff said he’s ready to party. Sorry, Sheriff Jim Adkins, verdict notwithstanding, this is no time for you and your staff to have a celebration.
As Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote, whose office tried the case, noted, James Eugene Wippel died. He may not have been the most law-abiding guy on the planet, but he was a human being and is dead just the same.
Wippel, who was 59, was arrested by Warm Springs police on April 24, 2017, for smoking methamphetamine.
He was taken to the jail and bled to death two days later after an ulcer burst. He was clearly in growing distress the night before he died.
Deputies Michael Christopher Durkan, Anthony “Tony” Joseph Hansen and Cory Lucinda Skidgel believed his discomfort was caused by withdrawal from drugs and did not seek medical help for him.
Judge Daina Vitolins may not have found the trio guilty, but she didn’t let them off the hook entirely, either. She noted that she found their behavior was criminally negligent. She also said, however, that there wasn’t evidence to show that it was the cause of Wippel’s death.
Yes, the trio was acquitted of negligent homicide. Adkins’ plans for a back-to-work celebration were inappropriate.
Surely Adkins doesn’t want the communities he serves to get the impression that jailers’ negligence is acceptable as long as it doesn’t lead directly to the death of an inmate.
Nor does he want his staff to get the same idea. Jail staff have the lives of inmates in their hands, and they must be required to live up to a higher standard than that.