The Maricopa County medical examiner found that the death of a New Yorker in police custody at the Phoenix airport was an accident. Carol Gotbaum, who was flying from NYC to Tucson with a stopover in Phoenix, died of "asphyxia by hanging" on September 28.
Gotbaum, stepdaughter-in-law of Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, had been traveling alone to check into alcohol rehabilitation. When she missed her connection to Tucson, she became upset and disruptive, and the Phoenix police took her into custody. She was found dead in her holding cell, with a chain wrapped around her neck. Gotbaum's family has questioned the police's treatment (Gotbaum was emotionally fragile) and have hired their own lawyer and pathologist to investigate her death. In turn, the Phoenix police have released surveillance video of Gotbaum in the airport as well as 200 pages of details and interviews with witnesses.
The medical examiner also noted that the 45-year-old's blood alcohol was 0.24, three times the legal limit of 0.08 in Arizona (as well as New York), making her severely intoxicated. Prescription drugs were also detected. Phoenix police spokesman Andy Hill said, "If your blood alcohol is three times the legal limit for driving, if they have prescription drugs that are part of their system, that's going to cause problems."
The findings also prompted the Gotbaum's lawyer, Michael Manning, to say, "The autopsy confirmed that Carol Anne died because she was confined to that holding tank, shackled to the bench and then ignored until it was too late to help her...She was obviously a very sick citizen. She had been drinking and was distraught." He told the Arizona Republic it's more likely he'll "file a claim - the first step toward a lawsuit - against the city" but he also told the NY Times that he was hoping to meet with the police before Christmas to discuss a settlement: "He said he was not sure what he would consider a satisfactory settlement, but the options include an apology, an agreement by the Phoenix police to adjust their policies or a monetary settlement."