This story has been updated to correct information about which inmate deaths were linked to the indictments, and provide more information about those who died in custody.

Two Multnomah County jail deputies are facing misconduct charges over the deaths of two inmates at the Multnomah County Jail.

Multnomah County Corrections Deputies James Brauckmiller and Michael Mersereau were both indicted on December 6 for official misconduct in the first degree. The indictments provide little detail about what circumstances led to the inmate deaths or the misconduct charges, but court documents allege both deputies failed to perform their job duties.

The indictments come after the deaths of Martin Todd Franklin, 58, who died by suicide on June 16, and 51-year-old Tera Anne Harris on October 26. Both were found dead while in custody at a county jail.

Franklin was in jail awaiting trial on charges of first-degree robbery and burglary, as well as unlawful use of a weapon, court records show. He had been in jail since August 2022.

Harris had been in jail since December 30, 2021. Court records show Harris was booked on domestic violence charges of second-degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon after she ran over her former husband, Thurston Harris, 48, with a Honda Element in a grocery store parking lot on August 27, 2021. Mrs. Harris told police her ex-husband, who had been released from jail a few days prior, showed up at her home earlier that day and brutally assaulted her. 

This year, seven inmates have died at the jail:

  • July 19: 31-year-old Josiah G. Pierce
  • June 22: 53-year-old Kashi Abram Harmon
  • June 16: 58-year-old Martin Todd Franklin
  • May 13: 31-year-old George Allen Walker
  • May 2: 26-year-old Donovan Anthony Wood
  • August 1: 36-year-old Clemente Pineda
  • October 26: 51-year-old Tera Anne Harris

At least two of the deaths were suicides, including a 26-year-old man. The rest were still under investigation by late October.

Two inmates died in 2022, but the jail recorded no deaths during the two prior years.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) said its own detectives opened separate investigations into the deputies’ alleged misconduct and referred the investigations to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. Both deputies remain on administrative leave and were arraigned Wednesday. Court-ordered warrants show both are slated to be arrested later this month.

The sheriff’s office said it “takes all allegations of misconduct seriously,” and will continue cooperation with the DA’s office.

Outside reviews

The in-custody deaths prompted Multnomah County Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell to call for an independent review of the fatalities, performed by Oregon State Police.

“Their review will focus on ensuring that our investigative processes are thorough and complete. It is not uncommon for OSP to receive requests for and to provide this type of support to Oregon sheriff's offices,” Morrisey O’Donnell said in a community letter released in August.

Morrisey O’Donnell said the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) was also asked to provide an independent assessment of the jail facilities, operations, and policies.

The sheriff called the outside reviews “important steps to ensure transparency in the work we do and build and maintain the community’s trust in us.”

MCSO operates three jails in the county, including a youth detention center. A fourth facility, the Columbia River Correctional Institution, is a prison operated by the state’s Department of Corrections.

In the 2023 Corrections Grand Jury report released last week, grand jurors noted adequate, but aging facilities, and a chronic staffing shortage that has cost the county more than $9 million in overtime pay so far this year, with a 24 percent nursing staff shortage across the four facilities last year.

Additionally, grand jurors noted a lack of staffing and beds for the corrections system’s acute mental health unit.

“[Adults in custody] who qualify to be housed in 4D were subsequently placed in a different unit which is not designed for their level of mental health needs,” a grand jury report released last week notes. The report notes the issue is true for both the Multnomah County Detention Center and the Inverness Jail.  

Grand jurors, who visited the four jails and heard sworn testimony from jail staff, also said deputies report “more prison-like behavior” at the jails, noting people in custody have more serious charges than in years past and are spending more time in jail awaiting trial, presumably due to a backlog in the court system.