SAN JOSE / Mother sues in death of son in county jail
KTVU, SFGATE, May 1, 2007
The mother of a former UC Berkeley student known as the “Naked Guy” has filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit against Santa Clara County over his jailhouse suicide last year.
Luis Andrew Martinez, 33, died of asphyxiation on May 18, 2006 after pulling a plastic bag over his head and tying it around his neck with a torn bed sheet, according to the autopsy report. The Santa Clara County medical examiner determined that Martinez committed suicide.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Martinez’s mother, Esther Krenn of Cupertino said her son tried to commit suicide by hanging himself in jail on May 1, 2006 and that jail officials failed to transfer him to the mental-health wing after that incident.
“He was discharged back to the general population in a maximum security cell,” said the suit, which names 11 county jail, medical and mental-health officials as defendants. “There were no instructions to remove dangerous items from his cell. On the night of May 17, 2006, Andrew Martinez did exactly what he told defendants he would do if given the opportunity. He killed himself, suffocating himself with a plastic bag.”
Santa Clara County Counsel Ann Ravel said Monday, “We have reviewed this situation carefully and believe that there is no liability.” Department of Corrections spokesman Mark Cursi has said jailers followed all protocols in accordance with county policy.
“I think that this is an egregious example of the catastrophic failure of the criminal-justice system here in California,” Krenn’s attorney, Geri Lynn Green of San Francisco, said Monday. “I think we need to realize that mental illness today, in many cases, ends up being a death sentence.”
At the time of his death, Martinez was in jail for allegedly assaulting a staff member at a halfway house and in the jail.
Martinez became famous as the “Naked Guy” in 1992 after he started attending his UC Berkeley classes in the buff. He said his nakedness was a form of free speech and a challenge to what he saw as the sexual repression of Western society.
Martinez was first arrested in the fall of 1992 for indecent exposure while he was jogging naked in Berkeley on a Saturday night. Three months later, he was expelled from the university for violating the campus code of conduct.
The suit said Martinez’s schizophrenia was diagnosed in 1997. Martinez spent the next decade bouncing among halfway houses, psychiatric institutions, occasional homelessness and jail, but never getting comprehensive treatment, his family said.