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Letter Reopens Questions About Inmate Death

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Letter Reopens Questions About Inmate Death

By Ben Hall. CREATED Jul 30, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A resignation letter from a former corrections officer at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution has led to new questions about the death of a mentally ill inmate.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates first reported the case of Charles Jason Toll, 33, and showed disturbing video of the cell extraction in which he died.

This week, Toll's story was highlighted by the New York Times.

The front-page article raised new questions about the Department of Corrections internal affairs investigation.

A federal jury reviewed the internal affairs report before finding the officers did nothing wrong in the cell extraction.

Officer William Amonette had the job of video taping the final moments of Jason Toll's life.

He was also one of the officers sued by Toll's mother in the death of her son.

But the New York Times reported this week that Amonette resigned his job at the prison, in part, because he didn't think the incident was fully investigated.

In August 2010, Jason Toll barricaded himself inside his cell at Riverbend.

Toll had a long history of mental illness and dared guards to remove him.

Dressed in riot gear and armed with tasers and shock shields, a cell extraction team forcibly removed Toll from his cell.

They handcuffed Toll's hands and feet and carried him -- face down -- to an unlit prison yard.

Toll said over and over that he could not breathe.

After arriving the prison yard, Toll stopped breathing and was later pronounced dead.

The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, writing that Toll died from "suffocation."

In a deposition obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, Amonette claimed he wrote an eight-page resignation letter.

The New York Times reported Amonette questioned why certain officers weren't interviewed in the internal affairs investigation and that he later quit because he believed he was "punished" for questioning the investigation and "trying to do what was right."

Toll's mother, Jane Luna, sued the officers involved in the extraction, but jurors in federal court said officers did nothing wrong.

They depended in part on that internal affairs investigation which vindicated the officers.

Four years later, she is still fighting for justice for her son.

The Department of Correction said in an e-mail, "We stand by the investigation and the jury's decision." It had no further comment.

The department has not yet released the resignation letter to NewsChannel 5 or to Toll's attorney.

Related story: Video Shows Violent Death Of Mentally Ill Inmate

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

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Ben Hall is a veteran reporter at NewsChannel 5. He has covered the state legislature, presidential campaigns and is presently part of NewsChannel 5's award-winning investigative unit.