After zero time spent at the Borges Civil rights trial, Sheriff Honsal blows off the verdict of eight attentive jurors

Guest post from Bob Holcomb, a retired political science instructor and longtime friend of the decedent’s stepfather, was present for the entirety of the trial

On Aug. 28, a jury of eight Humboldt County citizens returned a unanimous verdict in federal court that sheriff’s office correctional staff had failed to provide medical care, as required by their own written policies, for Daren Borges, who died less than two hours after his booking. The jury-determined award to his mother Stephany Borges was $2.5 million. The legal fees and expenses over the 30 months it took to bring the case to trial will likely add an additional million. Representing Humboldt County, attorney Nancy Delaney has indicated she plans to appeal to have the verdict overturned, which will add substantially more to the costs and is a very long shot at best. As the presiding trial judge stated, “Let’s just be clear, the evidence was pretty substantial in a variety of ways — as I’ve said before — so the likelihood I’m going to overturn a verdict is pretty low.” Want to try the Ninth Circuit? Good luck with that!

Admittedly the “preponderance of evidence” is a lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt” required in a criminal case. Nonetheless, what had to be proven in this civil case to find a defendant culpable was significant. In the jury instructions, the plaintiffs were required to prove their claim that Mr. Borges’ civil rights had been denied by demonstrating:

  1. The defendant made an intentional decision with respect to the conditions under which Mr. Borges was confined.
  2. Those conditions put Daren Borges at serious risk of suffering serious harm.
  3. The defendant did not take reasonable available measures to abate that risk, even though a reasonable officer in the circumstances would have appreciated the high degree of risk involved — making the consequences of the defendant’s conduct obvious; and
  4. By not taking such measures, the defendant caused Daren Borges injuries.

Three defendants were found responsible on all four elements; a supervisor was exonerated.

So, we have another multimillion dollar judgment against

the sheriff’s correctional staff (remember the Cotton case) arrived at by local jurors who spent four and a half days listening to testimony, viewing videos and hearing arguments before 10 hours of deliberation. They not only found three officers at fault, they also found inadequate training had been provided for the staff by the sheriff’s office.

Given said results in this federal civil rights trial, what is the response of recently appointed Sheriff Honsal? According to “Jury awards $2.5M in jail death suit” (Times-Standard, Aug. 31, Page A1), he said the correctional officers did everything they were supposed to do. The unanimous eightmember jury sure didn’t see it that way. Of course the jury heard all the evidence and saw the entire video of Daren’s time in custody whereas Honsal’s involvement in the trial was zero. The unelected sheriff said Daren would have either died in jail or on the streets with the amount of methamphetamine found inside him. Guess Mr. Honsal has more knowledge than the emergency room physician with 30 years experience who testified that had Daren received a proper evaluation at the jail intake and been sent to the hospital at that point, he would be alive today. How certain was he about that? “One hundred percent.”

Bad enough that Mr. Honsal blows off the verdict of eight attentive jurors and gives no indication any remediation is likely. He then bizarrely suggests that Stephany Borges (who is nearing 70 and lives in Albuquerque) should track down the dealer who sold the drugs to Daren! Some might think that’s your responsibility, Sheriff Honsal, not the duty of a grieving mother.


2 thoughts on “After zero time spent at the Borges Civil rights trial, Sheriff Honsal blows off the verdict of eight attentive jurors

  1. It concerns me that the overall reaction from the Sheriff’s Department is to deny, reflect, and attack the deceased and his family. Surely there are a few objective findingsthat can be learned after such a trial, no? I would have more faith if the Sheriff’s Department would agree to disagree with the jury (and Judge) yet use the experience to re-examine protocols and practices for future prevention of unnecessary deaths, but to react with outrage causes me concern. How about the correctional officer’s wife writing a letter to the editor bitching about how underpaid and overworked her husband is while having to deal with the likes of the deceased inmate and his family??? I am appalled at the lack of integrity and professionalism exhibited by the Sheriff’s Department in publicly responding to the verdict.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The jury verdict is terrific. I’m sure that the money will never make up for their loss, the money will not make their loss any easier to deal with either. But I’m glad the jury came back with the decision that they did. Not only the sheriffs department needs to change but the city’s Law Enforcement does also. To blame the victims for their own death and not take any responsibility for their own part is ridiculous. That just shows their lack of integrity and totally dishonestly. I’m sure there are good officers doing their best possible but when it comes down to it, their loyalty lies with their department, so by them not taking the initiative to stop what is happening at the time or not coming forward after, those very few good officers are just as much to blame as the bad ones.
    And to the wife of the officer that’s under payed and over worked, your husband chose the career in law enforcement, if he can’t handle it he needs to find new employment.

    Liked by 2 people

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