After 5 months, inquiry into jail suicide has no clear end

Jul 3, 2018

Antrim County Prosecutor James Rossiter is serving as the special prosecutor in the Halloway case.
Credit Antrim County

It’s been five months since a special prosecutor was asked to review a suicide at the Grand Traverse County jail. 

Alan Halloway hanged himself in the jail nearly a year ago. It took three hours for officers to find Halloway after he died; they were supposed to check on him every hour. 

An earlier investigation by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association found that two corrections officers did not follow jail policies and procedures; both officer no longer work there.

Now, it’s up to a prosecutor to decide whether jail staff behaved criminally and should be charged. In December, Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney asked that he be replaced by a special prosecutor. Cooney reasoned that he might appear biased in the case since he had advised the county in a lawsuit related to the suicide, and he was the one who charged Halloway with attempted murder in summer 2017.

Michigan’s attorney general appointed Antrim County Prosecutor James Rossiter to the case in January.

Rossiter says he’s still reviewing the case. 

“I need to request some further information so that I can make a decision based on complete information,” says Rossiter.

He says – since his appointment – a related lawsuit produced additional materials that he does not have yet and needs to request. 

More than 40 inmates have attempted suicide in the jail since 2011. In February, another inmate, Marilyn Palmer, committed suicide there. Since then, a committee in Grand Traverse County has been exploring ways to improve mental health services in the jail and prevent suicides.

But Rossiter says the scope of his review is much smaller.

“I’m looking at what happened on that particular day in that snapshot of time, not the behavior of the jail historically,” he says.

Rossiter says he’s not sure when he’ll make a final decision on the case.