Sutherland settlement with Charleston County releases liability of deputies, government entities

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – New documents shed light on a settlement reached in the in-custody death of Jamal Sutherland.

Sutherland was seeking treatment at Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health in North Charleston when he was arrested in early January and taken to the Al Cannon Detention Center. He died after deputies tried to take him to a bond court hearing while he appeared to be having a mental health crisis.

After long mediation, Charleston County Council voted unanimously in late May to settle the death case for $10 million, awarding the funds to Sutherland’s estate.

But by agreeing to the settlement, documents that were obtained by News 2 show the Sutherland family – and his estate – release liability against the two deputies directly involved in his death at the detention center.

Those deputies, Detention Deputy Brian Houle and Detention Sergeant Lindsay Fickett, were fired in mid-May for their role in Sutherland’s death.

The agreement also states the family (or estate) release liability against the county, connected government agencies, and employees.

It excludes Wellpath, LLC and Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health.

Representative JA Moore said while he can’t speak directly to the settlement, he can speak on what still has to occur in order for justice for Jamal to be reached.

“Justice is going to take multiple forms and I think going after the behavioral health center that was responsible for Jamal’s care is going to be vitally important. Not just from a civil standpoint, there’s a lot of things we can do from a legislative standpoint. “

Moore said better oversight for mental health facilities, complete with the proper personnel in the proper oversight departments, is critical.

Although the state already has regulations in place, ensuring that those regulations are adhered to is the challenge.

 Moore went on to say that the Sutherlands are pillars of the Lowcountry community, and it’s unfortunate that their voices are only being heard after the death of their son. “They are God-fearing people and they truly want to see justice,” he said. He continued, saying “they are truly focused on making sure this doesn’t happen to another family.” 

With what Moore sees as a criminal justice system that is broken and a mental health care system that is in shambles, he says it’s now up to the Lowcountry to fix. 

“[It is] in honor of Jamal’s life and the fight that the Sutherland family continues to fight that we do everything that we can to right the wrongs in these systems and make these systems more just.”

Rep. JA Moore, District 15 

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