44-year-old inmate Thomas Lee Rutledge "literally baked to death" in an Alabama prison cell after guards ignored a faulty heating system, a lawsuit alleges.
In a 58-page complaint updated earlier this month, lawyers argue that Rutledge's death in William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility was no accident as prison guards knew the heating system in his cell was faulty and had previously caused other men to die from extreme heat, per Al.com.
According to an autopsy report, the 44-year-old was found with a body temperature of 109 degrees on December 7, 2020 “in his cell sitting near the window of his cell with his head/face out the window believed attempting to breath/obtain cool/cold air.” The lawsuit alleges that prisoners voiced their concerns about excessive heat the weekend before his death. Still, the heating system in Rutledge’s unit surpassed 130 degrees.
"He was literally baked to death in his cell,” the lawsuit states.
According to the suit, "human beings cannot survive without remedial measures in temperatures above 101-104 for extended periods of time.” Rutledge was also taking psychotropic medications, which can impair the body’s regulation of temperature.
A Psychotropic Medications and Heat Policy at the corrections facility requires staff to move inmates to a cooler cell and notify shift officials and health services if temperatures rise above 90 degrees. Rutledge's lawyers claim the wardens and officers failed to institute this policy and wardens failed to require training.
The lawsuit was initially filed in Feb. 2021, alleging cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.