Taylor, who was facing life in prison after being found guilty of rape and murder, had a history of mental-health issues and had previously attempted suicide, Katie Rosenfeld and Marissa Benavides, the lawyers representing the family, told The Washington Post.
Rosenfeld, who has sued the corrections department previously, said the case represents a systemic issue of suicides in prisons, which recently made headlines after billionaire Jeffery Epstein, who was facing sex-abuse charges, reportedly hanged himself in a federal prison in New York in August.
“In New York state, there’s an epidemic of suicide in prisons,” Rosenfeld said.
Rosenfeld alleges the prison had documented Taylor’s deteriorating mental health but wasn’t watching to make sure he didn’t hurt himself.
“When someone is in a fragile mental state, there should be constant supervision,” she said. “That constant supervision was not provided.”
The state’s corrections department declined to comment to The Post, citing pending litigation. The case was first reported by the New York Daily News.
From 2010 to 2016, the average annual suicide rate in New York was 56 percent above the national average, Jack Beck of the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit that inspects prisons and reports its findings to the legislature, testified in 2018 before the legislature.
The association also found the majority of suicides at state prisons were concentrated in five facilities, Wende being one. In the two years before Taylor’s death, Wende reported two suicides and 51 attempts.
The rate of suicide is 122 times higher in residential mental-health units, like the one Taylor was in when he died, according to the Correctional Association.
The corrections department had documented Taylor’s history of mental-health issues, including his previous attempts at suicide, one of which led to his being discharged from the Marines, according to court records. As a child, Taylor was sexually abused, his family says. In prison, he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
“I can’t take this, I’ve lost everything,” Taylor told a clinical social worker when he was transferred to Wende in October 2016, according to the complaint.
In the summer of 2017, Taylor tried killing himself with a bedsheet, he later told a social worker. He said he had stopped because it hurt, but he still felt like “a burden,” per the lawsuit.
On the night of Oct. 6, 2017, Taylor started seizing after using synthetic marijuana. The corrections officers who responded are accused of beating him in his cell, his family says.
“Men in the adjoining cells heard Mr. Taylor screaming in pain, the sound of sticks hitting his body, and other sounds of an attack,” the complaint alleges.
Prison staff documented his purple and red marks across his body and face. The doctor recorded that the psychosis from the drugs Taylor took caused him to hurt himself and ordered an ambulance to take him to the hospital, according to the lawsuit.
He was discharged and sent back to the prison the next morning, where he was put in an infirmary cell.
Two hours before Taylor killed himself, a nurse wrote he wasn’t able to chew and was in pain, the lawsuit alleges. The same nurse said she saw Taylor waving through the window, thanking her for helping him.
But 10 minutes after, he was found, seated, with a knotted bedsheet wrapped around his neck and attached to the toilet grab rail.
The attorneys representing Taylor’s family say if he was properly watched by infirmary staff, the suicide wouldn’t have been successful.
“It’s somewhat telling he had the time to do that,” Benavides said.