PENDLETON, Oregon – The family of the late Jayson Mathew Withers has lost its suit for damages in the death of their son while he was an inmate at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in 2014. A federal jury ruled earlier this week that the EOCI guard was justified in shooting Withers.
The family was asking for a little over $10,000 in economic damages and a total of $4.5 million in non-economic damages, divided equally among Withers’ estate, his mother Kristen Wilson, and his father, Jack Withers. They alleged that the guard caused the wrongful death of Withers by using unnecessary force. The jury ruled that the guard had been within his rights.
Withers and another inmate were attacking another prisoner when the shooting occurred. The guard, who fired the shot from a tower, said he felt that the person being attacked was in danger of losing his life, according to court records. No warning shot was fired.
The shooting was investigated for possible criminal charges locally shortly after the incident occurred. At that time of the shooting, a Umatilla County grand jury ruled that the shooting was justified in the case presented by Umatilla County District Attorney Dan Primus. The lawsuit was filed in August 2016. After several delays, the trial began on July 30. It went to the jury on Monday, and the verdict was reached after six hours of deliberation Tuesday afternoon.
Editor’s note: This story was edited to correct the time the jury deliberation took, based on information received from a member of the jury..