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Inmate, 17, hangs himself at Rikers

1-6-2008 New York

A Mount Vernon teen hanged himself at Rikers Island after the jail failed to follow a Queens judge's order to place the inmate under suicide watch, lawyers charged Saturday.

David Mercado, 17, was supposed to be placed under round-the-clock protection after a Dec. 17 arrest in Queens on statutory rape charges that said he had sex with a 14-year-old girl.

But within 24 hours he hanged himself, attorneys for Mercado's family said.

"A judge ordered that he be placed on suicide watch," said lawyer Andrew Stoll, who will file a claim this week against the Correction Department.

"The Corrections Department knew that, and the level of care they gave him was plainly below standard."

Mercado, who lingered in a coma at Elmhurst Hospital for nine days before dying Dec. 30, was not diagnosed as depressed, but was put on suicide watch by Judge Gene Lopez after recommendations from Mercado's legal aide attorney.

Correction Dept. spokesman Stephen Morello said Mercado was not placed under suicide watch, insisting that a medical exam found he was not a threat to himself.

"Every inmate is given a medical examination - both physical and psychological - and this inmate was cleared to be housed in general population," said Morello, who noted that the death remains under investigation. ..more.. by

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