Published on Nov 23, 2012
No doubt you've heard the adage: a picture is worth a thousand words. A picture of 62-year-old Nick Christie could be worth thousands of dollars when a jury sees it.
The photo shows the Ohio man restrained inside the Lee County Jail with his body covered in pepper spray.
"This photo is a picture of a man who is strapped to a chair naked inside a jail for hours with a hood over his face. That evokes thoughts of being tortured," says Cleveland-based lawyer Nick DiCello who represents the Christie family.
The photo, which was obtained by FOX 13's investigative unit, was taken in the final hours of Christie's life.
The District 21 Medical Examiner ruled his death was a homicide because he had been restrained and sprayed with pepper sprayed by law enforcement officers. But to this day, nobody has ever been charged with a crime, and the Lee County State Attorney cleared the sheriff's office of any wrong doing.
It's been more than two and a half years and his wife still can't accept what happened.
"I was shocked. This was something out of a horror movie," says Joyce Christie. She said her husband was depressed and was showing signs of erratic behavior a few days before leaving for Florida.
She called authorities and pleaded with them to take her husband to a hospital and be given his medications. Instead, he was taken to jail for disorderly intoxication.
Her lawsuit alleges he was pepper sprayed 10 times over a 48-hour period, at times while in a restraint chair.
Tom DePolis spent more than 30 years in law enforcement at the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. He's seen first-hand the effects of pepper spray and knows its limitations. He can see no reason for deputies to repeatedly pepper spray Nick Christie since he was already in custody.
"The purpose is to temporarily incapacitate someone -- temporarily, that's the key word, so you can restrain them," says DePolis.
Monshay Gibbs was a deputy trainee at the jail at the time. In a video deposition, she testified that she thought the way Nick Christie was treated was excessive.
"He had a spit mask on and was naked," she said on the video while under oath. Gibbs testified that Christie pleaded with guards to take off the spit mask because he couldn't breathe.
He later died at the hospital. His heart failed from the shock of the pepper spray. The Lee County Sheriffs Office declined to comment on our story because of Joyce Christie's wrongful death lawsuit, which is scheduled for trial the middle of next year.
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