Prison death lawsuit alleges corrections staff failed to stop assault on Nicole Rathmann

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Rita Korsen

Nicole Rathman, 33, was a prisoner at a central Mississippi when she died on August 23.

A new lawsuit alleges that staff at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility failed to stop an assault on a prisoner that led to her death in 2018.

The complaint, filed earlier this month, states that Nicole Rathmann was “essentially administered the death penalty” by a fellow inmate who repeatedly struck her in the head using a sock filled with locks and bars of soap. Correctional officers and other prison employees did not try to stop the beating or offer medical assistance, the complaint alleges. 

Discovered unresponsive in a seizure-like position, Rathmann, 33, was transported to Merit Health Central hospital in Jackson, where she died Aug. 23, 2018. Doctors found that she had suffered a stroke with bleeding inside her skull, the complaint states.

Grenada-based attorney Carlos Moore filed the wrongful death suit on behalf of Rathmann’s father, Kent Rathmann.

The complaint names former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall, CMCF Superintendent Ron King, Warden Dean Epps and multiple unnamed prison employees as defendants. The lawsuit is seeking at least $3 million.   

MDOC communications director Grace Fisher declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Rathmann had served six years for a sale of methamphetamine conviction from 2013. She was one of 16 people — and the only woman — to die while incarcerated at a state prison in August 2018. The deadly month drew heightened media attention to prison conditions in Mississippi, as well as calls for greater transparency in Mississippi’s correctional system.