Thomas started the weeklong stretch at the Milwaukee County Jail belligerent and loud, the result of an untreated mental illness, prosecutors said. But as the days wore on, he grew weak and dehydrated. He lost nearly 35 pounds and turned quiet, never asking for or receiving medical attention.
Barely two hours into his eighth day in solitary, jail staff found Thomas, 38, dead on his jail cell floor, the result of profound dehydration.
Prosecutors on Monday began the process of publicly airing the circumstances surrounding Thomas’ death in April 2016, opening their inquest into whether any jail staff should be criminally charged for failing to help him.
An inquest is a rarely used legal process that allows prosecutors to question witnesses under oath and in front of a jury before they file any criminal charges. The jury then returns a unanimous verdict as to whether there’s probable cause to charge anybody, and what those charges should be.