Sheriff-Imposed Pink Undies Blamed for Man's Death
Mentally ill man stripped by deputies feared underwear was rape prelude
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2012 12:06 AM CST
Updated Mar 9, 2012 1:40 AM CST
"Given the cultural context, it is a fair inference that the color is chosen to symbolize a loss of masculine identity and power, to stigmatize the male prisoners as feminine," the court wrote.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Forcing inmates to wear pink underwear was one of the moves that led Joe Arpaio to call himself "America's Toughest Sheriff"—but those undergarments may be his downfall. A federal court has ordered a new trial in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a man who died running away from one of Arpaio's deputies, the Los Angeles Times. Eric Vogel, a 36-year-old paranoid schizophrenic, shouted he was being raped as a group of officers stripped him and forced him into pink underwear after he was busted on suspicion of burglary. After a minor car accident weeks later, he died of a heart attack after running miles from the scene when threatened with jail.

"Pink underwear sounds funny until you have a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks he's being prepared to be raped," says the family's lawyer. Two coroner's officials concluded that paranoia stemming from Arpaio's prison dress code could have caused Vogel's death, but the family was prevented from presenting their findings at an earlier trial. "Unexplained and undefended, the dress-out in pink appears to be punishment without legal justification," the appeals court wrote in a majority opinion. Arpaio was in the spotlight just last week after announcing that his investigators had concluded that President Obama's birth certificate is probably a forgery.

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