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.