May 2 (UPI) -- An inquest jury recommended Monday that prosecutors file felony charges against seven Milwaukee County jail employees in the dehydration death of inmate Terrill Thomas.
Thomas, a 38-year-old with bipolar disorder, was deprived of water and a mattress during seven consecutive days, authorities said.
Thomas was found dead in his cell on April 24, and the cause of death was ruled "profound dehydration" and classified a homicide.
The inquest jury found probable cause to charge the seven staff members, including two supervisors, with felony abuse in Thomas' death.
"Nothing like this should ever happen in an American jail," Erik Heipt, a lawyer representing Thomas' estate, "and we're pleased that justice is taking its course."
Because the inquest jury's decision is advisory, District Attorney John Chisholm is not bound to file criminal charges.
Chisholm, who told reporters he would carefully weigh the inquest verdict, also may charge more than seven people, less than seven or none.