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New trial ordered in pink underwear death

March 8, 2012 at 10:59 AM

SAN FRANCISCO, March 8 (UPI) -- The death of a mentally ill inmate forced to don pink underwear could result in liability for Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., a court said.

A divided appeals panel has ruled that a wrongful death jury should have heard testimony from two medical examiners who concluded the dress code imposed by the man known as "America's toughest sheriff" may have caused the death of Eric Vogel, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The examiners said Vogel, 36, was traumatized by being stripped naked by four deputies and forced to put on pink undergarments after being arrested on suspicion of burglary.

Less than a month after his release, Vogel fled the scene of a minor traffic accident when a deputy told him there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. He suffered a fatal heart attack after running four or five miles.

Vogel's sister filed a wrongful death suit but the judge refused to allow testimony about Vogel's delusional belief that he had been raped during the pink underwear struggle.

The judge also refused to permit the medical examiners to offer their opinions.

In its ruling Wednesday, the appeals court sent the case back for a new trial.

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