BROCKTON, Mass. — Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley says her office will review the 2009 death of a mentally ill man at Bridgewater State Hospital.
Joshua Messier, 23, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, died after guards secured him in restraints on a bed. The death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, but no one was ever criminally charged. Several guards and administrators were disciplined only recently.
“The circumstances of the death of Joshua Messier and the treatment of patients at Bridgewater, including the use of restraints and isolation, are deeply concerning,” Coakley said. “I believe they warrant a thorough review by our office and others to ensure that we are treating people with mental illness humanely and in a way that represents the best efforts to help them.”
Advocates for the mentally ill allege there is a government cover-up and asked Coakley to appoint a special prosecutor, but she did not say whether she would.
Messier’s mother, Lisa Brown, says she hopes the attorney general’s review leads to charges.
“It’s only right. Because if this doesn’t happen, how is anybody else that’s mentally ill going to be safe in this state?” she told WBUR. “What sort of precedence does this set?”
Coakley’s decision came on the same day Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz’s office said it had determined there’s insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges in the case.
Cruz said his office already had conducted a second review of the medical evidence in the Messier case and had affirmed his 2010 decision to refrain from pursuing criminal charges.
Bridgewater State Hospital is actually a medium-security prison run by the state Department of Correction. It houses about 280 mental health patients, some of whom have been convicted of criminal offenses and some of whom have only been charged but not convicted.
With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom.