Jury set for trial in Gregg County Jail inmate death
Jan. 7, 2013 at 11 p.m.
Two longtime teachers, a janitor and a self-described housewife were among eight people selected Monday to decide whether Gregg County is to blame for the 2010 death of a jail inmate.
The federal jury panel is to begin hearing evidence Jan. 22 in the wrongful death suit brought by the children and mother of Amy Lynn Cowling. U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap sent the five-woman, three-man jury home Monday with strict instructions not to discuss their assignment, including on social media.
Gilstrap said he expected the trial to run for about five days.
Cowling was 33 when she was brought to the Gregg County Jail after a traffic stop revealed two out-of-county misdemeanor theft warrants and some unpaid tickets.
She died in a separation cell on Dec. 28, the fifth day after her Christmas Eve arrest.
Defense attorney Robert Davis told the panel during selection process that Cowling's cause of death was " ... a product of having abused drugs for years."
A recovering opiate addict of seven years, Cowling was under a methadone regimen prescribed by a drug-addiction clinic in Tyler. She also was taking prescription medications Xanax and Seroquel for anxiety, drugs her family says Cowling also brought to the jail in pharmacy bottles bearing her name.
Those drugs, including the methadone, are not on the list of approved medications allowed by jail policy. Cowling's family says the seizures and inability to communicate into which she lapsed were the result of withdrawal from her prescribed medications.
Four jailers were fired within a week of Cowling's death.
It is unknown which side struck which potential jurors from the final panel, but a woman who works in her husband's chiropractic office was the only one of several in the medical field to be selected.
The suit is brought by Cowling's mother, Vicki Bankhead, and Cowling's three children, ages 14, 17 and 19.
Unlike in a state court, the federal civil suit has no caps on monetary damages liable to the county, plaintiff's attorney Todd Tefteller said.
Opening statements were set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 22.