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Wrongful Death Suit Filed in Mitrice Richardson Case

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 30, 2010 1:56 PM

The mother of a mentally ill woman who disappeared after being released from police custody in the Malibu/Lost Hills area near Los Angeles last September has filed a wrongful death suit against Los Angeles County and Sheriff's Department officials. Latice Sutton, mother of Mitrice Richardson, is alleging the sheriffs were negligent in releasing her daughter with no car, no phone, no purse and after she exhibited signs of being mentally unstable.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the negligence and wrongful death suit filed by Sutton says that, based upon the video surveillance tape the police allowed her to view, her daughter exhibited clear signs of disturbance. Richardson was arrested on September 16 for failing to pay her dinner bill at Geoffrey's restaurant in Malibu. The staff said at the time Richardson was acting "crazy."

The Sheriff's department says that Richardson seemed lucid and 'normal' during her entire stay at the station. The Times reports that contrary to this statement are the actions Sutton says were exhibited on the surveillance tape of Richardson while she was in detention. "She's grabbing at a door where she's swinging back and forth," Sutton said. "She's pulling at the back of her hair." She tries to make a call at a pay phone. Unsuccessful, she relinquishes the receiver.

After being released, Mitrice Richardson vanished and has never been heard from since. A body has not been found.

Leo Terrell, the attorney for Latice Sutton, tells the Times the suit will allow them access to police staff and help provide answers about what happened on the night of Richardson's arrest. "This magical lawsuit will allow me to obtain every single document in the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department and to depose every officer and detective involved," Terrell said. He also said the suit would enable him to get a copy of the videotape that Sutton was allowed to view but not take.

But not if it is dismissed. A suit for wrongful death requires the "death of a human being." Although missing for months, Richardson's body has never been found. There do not seem to be any reports of legal proof that she is she is indeed dead. This does not mean however, that the negligence portion of the action or any claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress may not still be a viable basis for a suit.

"I feel as though I am forced at this point to bring this lawsuit to get answers," Latice Sutton told the LA Times.

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