Denver's City Council on Monday will consider paying $695,000 to settle a 5-year-old federal lawsuit brought by the family of a deaf jail inmate who attempted suicide while in custody and died soon after. The lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial, but the city has agreed to settle with attorneys representing the family of Shawn Francisco Vigil, the 23-year-old inmate who was in jail for a month on sexual-assault charges before hanging himself in his jail cell in September 2005.
The settlement must be approved by the City Council. The city attorney's office doesn't comment on pending litigation. Lawyers for Vigil's family could not be reached for comment Friday. The lawsuit filed in 2007 by Vigil's mother, Debbie Ulibarri, claimed the city's jail system failed to make proper accommodations for her deaf son and failed to adequately train staff, putting deaf inmates at risk for suicide. Vigil, who was deaf since he was a child, was jailed Aug. 28, 2005, on suspicion of second-degree sexual assault and second-degree kidnapping. He was placed in a special unit away from the general population because he was deaf.
Court records say Vigil communicated mainly through sign language and read at a second-grade level. Attorneys say that while Vigil was jailed, he was never provided with a sign-language interpreter and as a result was never screened for mental-health concerns.