D.C. jury rules St. Elizabeths not negligent in '07 death of patient

A D.C. Superior Court jury said Wednesday that a St. Elizabeths Hospital employee did not use unreasonable force in restraining a patient in 2007 who later died.

The family of Mark Harris sued the District and the hospital for $25 million in a negligence lawsuit after attorneys said Harris, who was a patient at the District-run psychiatric hospital, died as a result of being restrained by Calvin Green, a nurse’s aide.

The jury deliberated one day after the week-long trial. According to Gregory Lattimer, the attorney for Harris’s family, Green put Harris, 39, in a headlock, threw him to the floor and lay on his back for about 10 minutes until other staffers arrived to offer assistance.

By the time employees arrived and Green released Harris, Lattimer said, Harris’s heart had stopped. Lattimer argued that Green used unreasonable force to restrain Harris, which led to the patient’s death.

But attorneys for the District argued that Harris died of a heart condition, not by strangulation by Green, and that Green had used reasonable force to restrain an often violent patient.

Last year, a jury acquitted Green of involuntary manslaughter in Harris’s death.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.

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