'He followed the order:' Correctional officer on trial, accused in death of inmate

Terrill Thomas

MILWAUKEE -- Jury selection began on Monday, Jan. 14 in the trial of the now former Milwaukee County correctional officer charged in connection with the death of an inmate.

It was in April 2016 when an inmate in the Milwaukee County Jail, Terrill Thomas, died in custody. Thomas was jailed after a shooting at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. Behind bars, investigators said Thomas died as a result of dehydration. The death was ruled a homicide.

Investigators said Thomas had water to his cell turned off as punishment for flooding it with a mattress. It remained off for a week.

Terrill Thomas after he was initially arrested

James Ramsey-Guy

Nearly three years later, Monday marked the first day of what is expected to be a week-long trial. James Ramsey-Guy faces a single charge of neglect of a resident of a penal facility. Ramsey-Guy was the correctional officer working at the time.

Before a jury was even selected, defense attorneys argued Ramsey-Guy was just doing his job.

"He followed the order, per his job description, in good faith," said the defense attorney.

Nancy Evans, Kashka Meadors, James Ramsey-Guy

Two other now former staffers also face charges. Nancy Evans faces one felony count of misconduct in office-act/inconsistent duty, and a misdemeanor charge of resisting or obstructing an officer. She has a jury trial scheduled for February. Kashka Meadors was charged with felony abuse of residents of penal facilities. She pleaded no contest in October, and will be sentenced on Jan. 28. Evans is the former commander, and Meadors a former supervisor.

"Yes, the defendant received an order, but it was not a lawful order. That's the critical issue here," said the prosecutor.

Nearly 50 witnesses could potentially be called.

Both sides sifted through a pool of 40 potential jurors. Prosecutors were looking for two alternates. Jury selection will continue Tuesday, Jan. 15.

The jury was told this trial could spill over into next week. With Monday, Jan. 21 being a holiday, it could last through Tuesday, Jan. 22.