Federal Jury Awards $9.5 Million in Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Correction Officers After Inmate’s Death

ALBANY, N.Y. – A federal court jury in Albany awarded $9.5 million to Tracy Yvonne Cooper after finding that correction officers at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora violated her son’s civil rights. The verdict came after hours of deliberation and followed Tracy Cooper’s claim that the guards used excessive force, resulting in the death of her son, Terry L. Cooper.

Terry Cooper, a 25-year-old inmate, died during a confrontation with the baton-wielding guards at the maximum-security prison in 2016. The jury reached its decision only a few hours after hearing closing arguments in the case.

The lawsuit, filed by Cooper’s mother, alleged that the guards not only used excessive force but also failed to intervene to aid her son, thus violating his civil rights under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The officers, identified as Patrick M. Clancy, Kolby M. Duffina, and Steven W. Wood, were sued for at least $3.75 million in addition to unspecified punitive damages.

During the trial, the plaintiff’s attorney, Joshua S. Moskowitz, presented evidence and argued that the guards beat Terry Cooper with batons, leading to injuries on his head and back. He showed autopsy photos to the jury, emphasizing the linear bruises on Cooper’s back that were consistent with baton strikes.

On the other hand, defense attorneys for the officers claimed that Cooper initiated the violence by punching Clancy and Wood. They argued that the guards were attempting to restrain him and used force only as a last resort.

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision released a statement expressing their condolences to Cooper’s family and stated that they were reviewing the verdict and considering their legal options.

Terry Cooper’s death was classified as a natural death by the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy. However, another pathologist testified that Cooper died as a result of the altercation with the officers and classified it as a homicide.

This verdict raises questions about the use of force by correction officers and the importance of protecting the rights of inmates. The $9.5 million award, while providing some relief to Terry Cooper’s family, serves as a reminder of the tragic circumstances surrounding his death and the ongoing concerns about excessive force in correctional facilities.