Nebraska to pay $479,000 to settle inmate death lawsuit
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska has agreed to pay $479,000 to the family of a “talkative” Scottsbluff man who was strangled to death in 2017 by a fellow inmate who didn’t want a cellmate .
The lawsuit filed by Terry Berry Jr.’s family against prison officials they argued were responsible for the 22-year-old’s death because they put him in the same cell as Patrick Schroeder was dismissed last week after both sides agreed to the settlement.
Berry was nearing parole on a sentence for forgery and assault when he was placed with Schroeder who was serving a life sentence for killing a 75-year-old man and dumping his body in a well. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Schroeder later pleaded guilty to killing Berry and was sentenced to death.
Berry’s family argued in the lawsuit that prison officials should have known there would be problems if they placed the two men together and a caseworker at the prison even warned coworkers involved in the decision that Schroeder didn’t want a cellmate and wouldn’t likely tolerate Berry well because he was known to be “very talkative and bothersome.”
Back in 2019, a federal judge dismissed the head of the state Department of Correctional Services and the prison’s warden as defendants, but the case had been allowed to move forward against several prison employees involved in the decision to make the two men cellmates.
Schroeder killed Berry five days after they were placed in the same cell by wrapping his arm around Berry’s neck and squeezing for five minutes before getting a towel and twisting it around Berry’s neck until he was sure Berry was dead.