ATHENS, Ala. (AP) — A state inmate who complained of mental problems before dying in a fall at a state prison in north Alabama last year killed himself, prison officials said an investigation determined.
The News Courier of Athens reported Friday that the death of Ben Christopher McClure, 23, at Limestone prison had been ruled a suicide.
McClure was serving 23 years for murder after pleading guilty in the shooting death of Michael Arnold Johnson in DeKalb, County in 2014. He jumped from the second tier of a cellblock in December, prison system spokesman Bob Horton said.
McClure suffered head injuries and died at a hospital.
Court records show that a lawyer told a judge that McClure, of Rainsville, was diagnosed with depression and anxiety around 2013.
“The defendant is ‘overwhelmed’ by depression and states ’my mind and thoughts are unexplainably and unimaginably confused,’” said a request for a mental evaluation filed by McClure’s lawyer, Robert Ray, and signed by McClure.
A judge ordered a mental evaluation, but the results weren’t available in the court file. The defense withdrew a request for a jury to determine whether the man was competent for trial, and McClure pleaded guilty about two months later in January 2016.
McClure was receiving mental health counseling at the time of his death, Horton told The Associated Press.
A judge presiding in a lawsuit over mental health care in Alabama prisons has ordered improvements following several inmate suicides.
In an order last year, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson called the state’s treatment system “horrendously inadequate.”
The state has submitted a plan to improve care and increase staffing, but inmate attorneys have criticized it as inadequate.