ALBANY, N.Y. – A federal jury awarded $9.25 million to the mother of Terry L. Cooper, a prisoner who died during a confrontation with correction officers at Clinton Correctional Facility in 2016. The verdict came just hours after the jury began deliberating Tracy Yvonne Cooper’s claim that the guards used excessive force in her son’s death.
The incident occurred when Cooper, a 25-year-old inmate, set off a metal detector while on his way to the prison gym. Two officers, Patrick M. Clancy and Kolby M. Duffina, discovered explicit photos in an address book found in Cooper’s possession. As they escorted him back to his cell in B Block, they were joined by another officer, Steven W. Wood.
According to the plaintiff’s attorney, Joshua S. Moskowitz, the officers used batons to beat Cooper, causing injuries to his head and back. Autopsy photos introduced during the trial showed distinct bruises consistent with baton strikes. Moskowitz argued that the officers’ actions violated Cooper’s civil rights under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
The defense attorneys for the officers claimed that Cooper had assaulted Clancy and Wood, leading to a struggle to restrain him. They alleged that Cooper resisted their attempts to place him in mechanical restraints, and Clancy punched him twice in self-defense. The officers then escorted Cooper towards the infirmary, but he collapsed along the way, stating that he could not breathe and needed his asthma pump.
Cooper’s autopsy revealed that he died from cardiorespiratory arrest, specifically an acute exacerbation of chronic asthma. The defense argued that Cooper’s death was natural and not a result of excessive force. They presented two forensic pathologists who supported this claim.
The lawsuit brought by Cooper’s mother sought $3.75 million in compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages. The jury’s award of $9.25 million exceeded her initial request.
The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision expressed sympathy for the loss of life but refrained from commenting on the verdict. Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which defended the officers, also declined to discuss the outcome.
On the day of his death, Cooper was serving a 12-year sentence for first-degree robbery and second-degree assault in Onondaga County.
In conclusion, a federal jury awarded $9.25 million to the mother of a prisoner who died during a confrontation with correction officers at Clinton Correctional Facility. The jury found that the officers had used excessive force, leading to the death of Terry L. Cooper, a 25-year-old inmate. The case highlights concerns over the treatment of prisoners and the need for proper oversight within the correctional system.