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Family of electrocuted inmate sues

Family of electrocuted inmate sues


SIOUX FALLS (AP) - The family of a state inmate electrocuted in July 2002 while helping to clear windstorm debris is suing two state corrections employees and the state prison warden.

Neil Ambrose, 22, died after coming in contact with a downed power line on a farm in the east-central South Dakota town of Sinai.

Attorney Rick Johnson filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court on behalf of Lee Ambrose of Grasston, Minn., trustee, for the next of kin. It names state corrections employees Mark Tisland and Maj. Darren Young and South Dakota State Penitentiary Warden Doug Weber as defendants.

Neil Ambrose's parents and siblings seek compensatory and punitive damages, according to the lawsuit.

As part of a disaster response program created by then-Gov. Bill Janklow in 1996, more than 200 inmates were deployed to the Brookings County area to help National Guard members clean up after a wind storm.

Neil Ambrose, serving a two-year sentence for burglary in the Yankton Trusty Unit, was one of the inmates sent to Sinai.

According to the lawsuit, the crew went to Tisland's residence under Tisland's supervision and Young was the senior supervisor at the site.

When a DOT worker operating a dump truck snapped a power line, the wire hit the ground and started a small grass fire. The lawsuit says Young sent Ambrose and other inmates near the power line to put out the fire, and the wire struck Ambrose in the chest.

The lawsuit says the defendants' "reckless and deliberate indifference" amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and deprived Ambrose of his Eighth Amendment rights.

Ambrose was one of the people Janklow pardoned as his administration came to a close in 2002. In March 2003, Janklow said he learned a lot about Ambrose after his death and got personally involved with calling his relatives.

"He never got a phone call or letter while he was in prison," Janklow had said. "He was truly alone."

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