Judge to review inmate death case
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
Orange County Judge Stephen Brint Carlton said he plans to undertake and make transparent a “full public review” of the Montano jail inmate death case.
County commissioners court voted Jan. 3 to pay the family of Robert Montano nearly $3.2 million after losing a lawsuit and two rounds of appeals concerning the 2011 death of Robert Montano while in the county jail.
Testimony in the trial revealed Montano was kept for more than four days in an observation cell and died from renal failure.
In 2015, a jury awarded the family $1.5 million in damages for pain suffered by Robert Montano, plus $900,000 for wrongful death. The total, now $3.175 million, Carlton said, included $440,000 for the family’s attorneys fees plus interest.
The county did not have liability insurance at the time and must pay the full amount by Feb. 15.
So far, commissioners haven’t voted yet on how to pay it. Carlton says though the county has the money in its fund balance, it can’t spend it because of budgeting rules.
So one alternative is to use a “tax anticipation note” to borrow the money for a year.
“We have the money to pay it, but the way budgets work, we can only spend what’s budgeted this year,” the judge said. “Next year, we can put it in the budget and pay it back.”
After the county’s liability on the case is removed, a review can begin.
“There’s still ongoing litigation, but once it’s all final, the court will look at doing a public review of the incident,” Carlton said.
“I want a full public review on this case: what happened on that day, what happened on the legal end and with the appeals. I want people to understand what happened and why.
“I want to be sure the county won’t find itself in this situation again.”
In business before the court Tuesday, commissioners considered a contract with Golden Triangle Emergency Center for care of inmates.
Baptist Hospital closes its Orange emergency room Thursday.
“It just affords us the ability to take care of inmates,” explained Jody Crump, Commissioner Precinct 4. “It’s just sort of a stopgap measure, so we don’t have to take them all the way to Beaumont.”