A recent appellate court decision involving claims of violations by Chicago police officers has received a lot of media attention because of the severe nature of the resulting injuries suffered by the plaintiff. While the Chicago Police Department claimed that its officers had qualified immunity and could not be held responsible for the harm done to Christina Eilman, the Illinois Appellate Court disagreed. Paine v. Cason, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 8450 (7th Cir. Ill. Apr. 26, 2012).
Paine was brought by the mother of 21 year-old Christina Eilman against the City of Chicago and its police officers regarding the May 2006 arrest of Ellman. Officers were called to respond to a disturbance caused by Ellman as she attempted to board a plane at Chicago’s Midway Airport. Ellman was suffering from mental illness, but had not been taking her medications; as a result she was exhibiting disruptive behavior and needed to be escorted from the airport.
Police initially took Ellman to the 8th District Station, located on 63rd St., but then transferred her to the 2nd District Station, a woman-specific holding facility located on South Wentworth Ave. While at the 2nd District, Ellman was both maniac and calm, exhibiting behaviors typical of her diagnosed bipolar disorder. Despite her obvious mental illness, she was not given any medical treatment or a psychiatric evaluation. Instead, she was released two days after her initial arrest, still in an unstable mental condition.
The accusations in the complaint focus both on the lack of medical care offered while Ellman was in custody and on the manner of her release. Instead of returning Ellman to Midway Airport, or a similarly safe area, she was released directly from the 2nd District Station, which is located near the Robert Taylor Homes, a Chicago public housing project with an extremely high crime rate. In addition, Ellman was released without her cell phone, was scantily clad in short shorts and a bare midriff shirt, and was not in a mental condition that allowed her to appreciate the danger of her situation. Consequently, Ellman wandered into a vacant apartment with several young men, where she was raped at knife point. She then either jumped or was pushed out of a 7-story window, resulting in severe brain damage and other injuries.