Psych facility supervisor charged with homicide in patient's death

August 8, 2011

A supervisor at a state-run psychiatric center on Staten Island was charged Wednesday in the death last year of an autistic patient undergoing treatment at the facility, authorities said.

Erik Stanley, of Middletown, N.J., used excessive force when he subdued Jawara Henry on Dec. 4, 2010, at the South Beach Psychiatric Center, suffocating the patient with pressure on his neck and torso, Staten Island prosecutors said.

Mr. Stanley, 37 years old, surrendered to police after an eight-month investigation by Staten Island prosecutors. He was arraigned Wednesday on charges of criminally negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person. He pleaded not guilty and was released without bail.

The investigation found Mr. Stanley did "not follow protocol nor use proper techniques while to trying to restrain" Mr. Henry, who was "agitated and aggressive and was biting staff and other patients," said Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovon Jr. in a statement.

The investigation included a review of medical and forensic evidence, in addition to interviews with eyewitnesses to the incident, the statement said.

The medical examiner ruled Mr. Henry, 27, died of asphyxiation due to chest and neck compression.

The South Beach Psychiatric Center is operated by the Staten Island division of the State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

In addition to putting excessive pressure on Mr. Henry's body, prosecutors said Mr. Stanley also allegedly broke protocol by not waiting for back-up from other staffers at the center.

An attorney for Mr. Stanley didn't return a call seeking comment.

Mr. Henry's family said they welcomed the criminal charges.

"I'm happy that somebody is going to pay for my son's death," his mother, Sharon Rowe, said at a news conference at her attorney's Lower Manhattan office.

Ms. Rowe, a home health aide, said she had cared for her son at home until his 20s.

He had been a patient at the center for about a year before he died, she said.

Mr. Henry had been unable to speak since childhood but had not been prone to violence, said his stepfather, Courtney Rowe.

Mr. Rowe said he believes his son's inability to communicate with the center's staff led to a "very volatile situation."

"I think the system really failed Jawara," Mr. Rowe said. "He wasn't verbal, he never spoke since he was a kid."

The family's attorney, Gary Douglas, said they intend to file a civil lawsuit against Mr. Stanley. He said other plaintiffs may be added to the suit once he acquires the details of the district attorney's investigation.

"This indictment is the first step on the road to justice," Mr. Douglas said. He said the civil suit is intended to hold the system accountable and to shine a light on what has taken place." 

Source: Tamer El-Ghobashy and Alison Fox, "Supervisor Is Charged in Death of Patient," Wall Street, August 4, 2011.


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